May 25, 2022

New Exhibition: Cambridge University Lays Bare the Secrets of its Library Tower

From University of Cambridge:

To avoid disappointment, an exhibition opening this week at the Cambridge University library should carry the warning sign: “These books contain no pornography”.

Despite undergraduate folklore there is no secret stash of pornography among the 200,000 books in the 17 floors of the tower, which rises 157 feet above the library. The building, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was completed in 1934 to mixed reviews, with the former prime minister Neville Chamberlain calling it “a magnificent erection”.


The truth, revealed in the exhibition Tall Tales, is that as a copyright library Cambridge receives a copy of every book published in the UK. The tower was used by librarians to store “secondary material”, including Victorian and Edwardian children’s books, comics, dress patterns, cookery books, paper toys and board games, as well as paperback thrillers and bodice rippers – publications which they judged nobody would want to look at again.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.