The WHS Library

From 1999 to 2009 I was Director of Studies of a French business school specialising in Asia-Europe trade. We had a library and a full-time librarian. The stock was not huge but specifically related to our study programme - and the library was extensively used. When I went back in 2019, the library was gone; replaced by classrooms. When I queried this I was told: "We don't need it now we have the internet."

Somehow, this was rather sad. It meant the end of thousands of years of recording and learning from knowledge in print. The great libraries of past centuries and indeed many still extant are a testament to Mankind's thirst for knowledge and the building of civilisation. There is no substitute for reading a book: it is a rather special activity. True, one can get answers to almost any question from the internet, but firstly it is not healthy to spend too long staring at a monitor and secondly what if one day the internet is down - even permanently for some reason? Is all that knowledge going to be lost? And when a library is abolished, do they STORE the books somewhere? That costs money, so I really wonder if it is done. No doubt (I haven't researched this) there ARE somewhere deep underground electronic files with a huge amount of human knowledge stored - much like there is a seed repository somewhere - but what about the books? Perhaps in the future the great libraries will become museums.

Anyway, WHS had a jolly decent library, though it surely changed a lot over the four decades. I personally did not use it much from 1958 to 1965, even though I had been an avid reader before going to WHS. I found myself too busy with lessons, homework, rugby/cricket and many other activities to do much reading. Others will have certainly have had a different experience. (Chris Snuggs: Berners/Halls 58-65)

Here are former WHS librarian Jean Butler's reminiscences of her tenure from 68 to 78.

Peter Warne - Corners 66-73: "I spent a lot of time in the library. As well as a great collection of all the important books, the library subscribed to magazines. I remember Sight and Sound, Plays and Players, Punch, some serious newspapers (especially the Daily Telegraph, which carried results from my races at the RHYC on Mondays), and Stern and Paris Match if I am not making things up. I loved it, and am still today really grateful to all those, especially Jean Butler, who worked to make it the success it was. When I got to university, one of the professors was discussing Frazer’s Golden Bough, before it was discredited, and was interested to know how I knew so much about it. ‘I read it in our school library,’ I said. He was astonished that any school would have it in the library. John Cox had suggested we investigate it as a key to some passages in 'The Waste Land.'"

Louis Parperis - Orwell 63-70: "Peter Warne I suffered from a similar addiction which not only expanded the horizon, but served to provide alternative interpretations, though still rooted in factual accuracy in a way that the world of social media and instant access to falsehood seems to have jettisoned. The library was a complementary adjunct to the approach taken by those teaching us (though I am unsure how or if it worked in that way for those following the science-based syllabus), so reading Zamyatin’s ‘We’, followed by Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, helped me not only to gain greater insight into Orwell’s dystopian vision for the required study of ‘1984’ on the Further English Studies AO course, but became ingrained in my undergraduate and postgraduate approach to the study of history, where contemporary literature often provided a depth or different understanding of events."

Ian Thompson - Corners 66-73: "Jean Butler was appointed during my time as a librarian, including my final year when I was Head Librarian. The end-of-term library checks were great fun, especially as we missed lessons!"

Julius Marstrand - Johnstons 63-68: "I was also a librarian (or probably more of a 'library assistant') during my time at Woolverstone, and remember Dewey-classifying and covering all the new books that came into the library with sticky-backed plastic."

Rob Rolfe - Halls 65-72: "I was Head Librarian before Ian, above, and worked with Mrs. Butler: a fine lady, who was not a teacher. Memorably, I wanted to put a book about the Kinsey report into sixth-form only; Mrs. Butler disagreed, and the book became an eye-opener for many. On another occasion I publicly embarrassed myself in front of the whole school by intemperately moaning about a magazine having been pinched - turned out a new member of staff had 'borrowed' it. Mrs. Butler was suitably calming."

Chris Snuggs: "I wonder what happened to all the books when the school closed down?"

Barry Clark - Hansons 58-65: “Like so much of the equipment, it was shared to local schools. I don't have a lot of details but the science lab stools were taken (by me) to Farlingaye. Although the London Residuary Body looked after the building and the financial aspects during the final year - after the winding up of the ILEA - and may have important records if it still exists, Suffolk County Council "looked after aspects of the school."

Harvey Angel - Hansons 64-71: “Someone told me that a lot of books from the library were going to be thrown out. Neil Clayton had an antique books business and so he was able to "stock up" with books that were otherwise going to be disposed of. I remember reading through all those really old Wisden Almanacks, back to the time when Jack Hobbs was opening for England and even earlier, plus the prime years of Don Bradman. And, of course, the 19th century Punch magazines.”

The WHS Library