Campus & Community

A look inside: Undergraduate House libraries

3 min read

Each of Harvard’s 12 undergraduate residential Houses has a library, and despite their rich histories and outward grandeur, these are intimate spaces. Students spend long stretches clicking away on laptops or fall asleep draped over books during all-night study sessions.

For Taylor Carol ’17, who lives in Cabot House, “home base” is a corner desk in Eliot Hall Library, two floors below his dorm room.

Kirkland residents can be found sitting with laptops and cellphones underneath the antique shuttered windows of John Hicks House, which was built in 1762 and is named after one of two Cambridge citizens known to have participated in the Boston Tea Party.

Like the presidents’ coin collection in Eliot House and the harpsichord in Dunster, unique paraphernalia abounds in the House libraries. Dunster also boasts a beautiful view of the Charles River from a grand, wood-paneled space with stacked shelves reaching the ceiling. Lamps line long wooden tables similar to the ones inside Adams House. The Eliot library has a hushed corner nook with a spiral staircase leading to an even quieter space.

These libraries, wood-paneled and grand or quaint and historic, allow students a calm getaway not far from their own rooms.

Brenda Serpas ’16 (left) and Chris Zhang ’18 study in the Eliot House library.
Oak card catalogs line the Adams House library.
Ariana Chaivaranon ’18 preps for back-to-back midterms inside the Adams House library.
Records are available for borrowing at Adams House library.
Elizabeth Koch ’18 studies inside the Eliot House library.
Matching lamps line wooden tables in Dunster’s library.
Ladders are needed to reach the top shelves at Dunster.
Kevin Hornbeck ’16 (left) and Lejla Custo ’18 study inside Kirkland’s John Hicks House.
Family records say that John Hicks’ wife “found her husband’s boots with tea in their bottoms” the morning after the Boston Tea Party.
On April 19, 1775, John Hicks left his house with two friends to man Massachusetts Avenue and Rindge Avenue in an effort to ward off the British, who were retreating through North Cambridge after fighting in Concord.
Years of student engravings cover a third floor oak table in the Hicks House library.
Taylor Carol ’17, studying for his English class inside Cabot’s library, removed the desk in his room for more space.
A leaded glass window frames Taylor Carol ’17.
The presidential coin collection in the Eliot House library includes one of Theodore Roosevelt.
Renajd Rrapi ’16 studies inside the Adams House library.
A letter signed by Neville Chamberlain is on display in the Eliot House library.
Dunster’s House renewal is viewed through massive fan windows.
Windows and sky are reflected onto old volumes in Dunster.
Kirkland’s Hicks library, a colonial on JFK Street, is attached to the House by a window-lined passageway to the right.