Call of Cthulhu: Letters from Arkham
The finest jewel in Miskatonic’s crown, the Jeremiah Orne Library stands at the corner of South Garrison and West College streets, on the university campus. The massive, three-storied gothic building was built out of native granite in 1878, replacing an earlier and much smaller wooden building. Holding just over 400,000 volumes, the Orne Library cannot compete with institutions in nearby Cambridge and Boston, either in numbers of volumes or in breadth of collections. Miskatonic’s library is, however, renowned for its collections of New England histories, letters, and documents, many of which date back to the witch hysteria in Salem. The library is also famous (some might say infamous) for its collection of rare works of occult and magical philosophy, surpassed only by the oldest institutions in Europe. This three-story Gothic structure was built of native granite in 1878, replacing a smaller wooden building.
The mastiff chained near the front steps still stands guard at night, and Armitage has convinced the board of trustees that more security is needed. The University has asked Dick Ace to install an expensive electric burglar alarm system.
The heavy outer doors open upon a dim, arched lobby. Faded frescoes decorate the ceiling. The walls bear portraits of prominent figures from Arkham and Miskatonic’s history. Marble busts of literary giants stand at intervals on pedestals: Thoreau, Washington Irving, Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Shakespeare, Milton, and even stern, scowling Cotton Mather are present.
Within, the marble halls of the library are cold, quiet, and drafty, but the massive skylight and tall, arched windows admit ample light. The carpets and furnishings are well maintained. Many students come here to finish their assignments away from the noisy bustle of campus dormitories. The church-like architecture of the building, down to the stained glass panels in some of the windows, has earned the library the nickname “St. Henry’s” from Miskatonic’s students and faculty alike, after the library’s tireless director, Dr. Henry Armitage, A.M., Miskatonic; Ph.D., Princeton; Litt. D., Cambridge.
Armitage assumed the post of library director in 1906. He has worked tirelessly to modernize and expand the library’s collections. Often sleeping on the couch in his office after long nights of work and research, Armitage is a common sight within the library. He visits the outside for occasional meals or to sleep at home. Armitage knows the collections of the Orne Library better than anyone. Student legend has it that, if he had the time, the erudite librarian could recite the title of every book in the building.
Dr. Wilfred Llanfer, Assistant Director of Collections, helps Dr. Armitage fulfill his duties. A quiet, fastidious man, Llanfer has shouldered more and more of Armitage’s administrative duties as the director’s health has worsened.
Mrs. Diane Long, Head Reference Librarian, handles much of the day-to-day business of the library. She has frequent contact with the students, since her knowledge of reference room materials and her talent for unraveling thorny research dilemmas are held peerless, earning admiration from upperclassmen, graduate students, and faculty alike. Four assistant librarians (most of them women) also work at the Orne, along with students who hold part-time jobs to help with shelving. A senior cataloguer and an expert bookbinder manage more students. Student interns can expect to work between twelve and twenty hours a week, earning about $50 a month.
The library is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Sundays only the reference room is open, from 1-6 p.m.; consequently, no book can be checked out on Sundays. On that day, one assistant librarian is on duty.
During the week prior to final exams the library’s hours are extended to midnight. The evening staff (this includes most student interns) begins duty at 5 p.m. and usually work until about 10 p.m., shelving and tidying up. The night janitor starts making his rounds at closing and is finished by midnight. All undergraduates are required to leave at closing, although professors and graduate students may stay longer. Graduate students frequently spend the entire night in the library, scrambling to finish papers or theses.
The major book holdings are contained on the upper floors of the building.
General holdings in the Orne Library include a large collection of reference books, including several new sets of encyclopedias. The basement of the library is home to the Pickman Collection, a vast repository of books, diaries, journals, letters, biographies, and genealogical data from all over New England, dating back beyond the Salem witch trials. This trove of early colonial data is one of the finest in existence, and frequently draws scholars and historians to study its contents.
Bound periodicals and University records are also stored in the basement.
The library has near-complete collections of the Arkham Gazette and the Arkham Advertiser, and the latter’s predecessors. The disastrous Miskatonic flood of 1888 destroyed portions of this collection, including the Arkham Gazette, 1845-1858 and 1864-1868; the Arkham Advertiser for the years 1851-1863; the Arkham Bulletin 1823-1826; and the Miskatonic Valley Gleane for the years 1830-1831. There are also bound volumes of the Aylesbury Transcript (1844-present), the Innsmouth Courier (1833-1846, lacking the final issue), and the Newburyport Correspondent (1839-present).