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the button and button light are in a square brass plate that looks a bit like a light switch that says Watch Station and 4-10
A watch station call button in the John Adams Building (Photo courtesy of Ellen Terrell)

Pic of the Week: All Along the Watch Station

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A number of weeks ago I noticed something in the stacks that I had never seen in the 9 years I have been working at the Library – 16cm X 10cm brass plaques with the words “WATCH STATION” embossed on them.

My first thought was very 21st century -  I thought they were some sort of camera/surveillance system.  But that didn’t make any sense given the fact that they were installed when the building was being built in the 1930’s.  So I decided to ask around.  One of those people I questioned was Ken Schaaf in Library Services.  I found out the plaques were part of the system used by the night watchmen to check in while on their rounds.  He wrote:

As watchman or guards would make their rounds through the night, they would need to visit each watch station, insert a key, and then move on to the next watch station in a set sequence.

Steve Herman who is Chief of the Collections Access, Loan & Management Division and Mark Schubin who just lectured here at the Library concurred, so I can put that little mystery to bed.

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