Known around the world as the "Cathedral of Books," the George Peabody Library is regularly featured on lists of the world's most beautiful libraries. Step inside the stack room and it's easy to see why. Five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies greet the visitor, drawing the eye more than 60 feet up to the dramatic skylight.
With more than 300,000 volumes spanning centuries—from before the invention of moveable type to modern artist's books—the library is a desirable destination for scholars. It is also an essential teaching space for Johns Hopkins University classes across a range of disciplines, including a Civil Engineering class this past spring.
But the nearly two dozen people who gathered at the Peabody Library on Monday weren't there for the view. And despite the fact that many of them work for the Sheridan Libraries, they weren't there to browse the collections either. In fact, they were there for the dust.
For the past several years, volunteers have gathered for this annual day of service to help to clean glass windows and doors, spruce up exhibition cases, polish brass fixtures, and rid the books and shelves of dust.
"This event is a favorite of ours because it brings people from across the libraries and across the university together to help make this extraordinary library shine," said Paul Espinosa, curator of the George Peabody Library.
In tandem with this effort in the stacks, preservation specialists from the Sheridan Libraries' Department of Conservation and Preservation worked in the Peabody's Rare Book room to clean the library's rarest and most unique objects, some of which will be on display this fall when the library hosts Bibliomania: 150 Years of Collecting Rare Books at the George Peabody Library. The exhibition is free and runs from Sept. 22 through Jan. 31. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Designed by architect Edmund Lind, the George Peabody Library opened in 1878. The library's collection, which dates to the founding of the Peabody Institute in 1857, comprises 300,000 volumes, mainly from the 19th century.