Preserving One Couple’s Hidden Library

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25,000 books line every wall of Dorthy and George’s Utah home. She had only weeks to find a home for them.

In the 1940s, a husband and wife began building a library in their corner home just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. They dreamed of creating a collection used for higher education, and eventually it grew to more than 25,000 books.  The couple spent all their funds on books and custom-built shelves that filled the house – a modest two-story building that locals thought was abandoned.

In early August, Dorothy Torrey called the Internet Archive with an urgent request.  The home she had lived in for decades was being sold and she needed to leave by the end of September.  Would we take the books that she and her husband had collected?  Could we get the books packed in boxes and shipped to our warehouses in California?

As a boy, Dorothy’s husband, the late George Maycock, bounced around foster homes – one across the street from a university library.  He spent awe-filled hours walking among the library stacks, sometimes just touching the volumes, sometimes sitting on the floor to read.  Years later, this experience inspired George to recreate that feeling in the stacks by amassing his own collection, with Dorothy’s help.  Their library covered myriad topics, from math to science, religion, and biography.  The library even had its own card catalog, that Dorothy created and maintained.

Needless to say, when we heard of Dorothy’s dilemma, we wanted to help.

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Kyle Rosqvist and Dorothy Torrey in the midst of boxing the 25,000 books.

For assistance packing the books, we reached out to one our of close partners in Utah, Dennis Meldrum of FamilySearch.org.  He suggested that we work with an Eagle Scout, Kyle Rosqvist, who needed to complete a leadership project.  Coordinating fellow scouts to pack and preserve thousands of donated books seemed like a worthy goal.

Our Warehouse Manager, Sean Fagan, sent the needed supplies to Dorothy’s house: stacks of pallets, piles of unfolded boxes, and rolls of packing tape.  Sixty volunteers showed up to pack books over two days.  Some of the words volunteers used to describe the collection: “overwhelming,” “impressive,” and “amazing.”  Although help was needed both inside the house and out, most volunteers asked to work inside, just to be close to the books.  And sometimes the books proved too attractive, as some volunteers were found reading more than packing.

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Thirty-nine pallets of books lined up along the driveway of the hidden library in Utah.

As the books were being boxed, Dorothy closely monitored the work, ensuring that the volumes were handled with care.  She even inspected each completed pallet as it was lined up along her long driveway.  After the pallets had been taken away, Dorothy felt some sadness, but she was comforted knowing that these books would someday be made available to countless readers through archive.org.

And last week, 39 pallets of books were delivered to one of our warehouses in the San Francisco Bay area.  We are deeply grateful to Dorothy and her late husband, George, to Family Search’s Dennis Meldrum, Eagle Scout, Kyle Rosqvist, and the dozens of scouts who volunteered.  Indeed, with such passionate individuals preserving invaluable books, this is how great libraries are built.

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9 Responses to Preserving One Couple’s Hidden Library

  1. David says:

    Why does the physical archive still not have its own page on archive.org — preferably clearly linked from the home page — with *clear* instructions for individuals with lesser collections on how to donate/ship books to the physical archive warehouses and whether any recognition will be made? The only mention of the physical archive project is in blog entries. You haven’t even tagged this blog entry with anything that would make it findable.

  2. emijrp says:

    A great story with a happy end. Thanks for sharing. Now, that books will live forever at Internet Archive.

  3. Vivia Boe says:

    So glad Mrs. Torrey found the very best place there is for both preserving and sharing the book collection she and her husband George amassed. It must be a tremendous relief and joy. Thanks for posting !

  4. Deo Ssesanga says:

    Great work done to have made efforts to conserve that multitude of books because the world was to miss such great wealth hidden in those books. My sensere appritiation goes to all that took an initiative in Dorothy. For they helped the generation to come.

  5. Tyler says:

    great post and great story. I’m glad these are being preserved. Hopefully they will be scanned someday!

  6. tom cantrell says:

    Great story and work by all involved. Thanks to Scott Rosqvist and the scouts. Books are hard to move, and they moved fast.

  7. Nemo says:

    A very smart woman and a nice community effort.

  8. Deb Dowdle says:

    I witnessed Dorothy as she worked tirelessly, day and night, to manage this mammoth project. She was meticulous and pull of purpose. God gave her strength beyond her feeble body and she created miracles with the help of so many great people. Thank you all for your work and for helping this great lady create a legacy for those who love to learn. It has been her life purpose.

  9. lb says:

    That’s a beautiful and very touching story.

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