The Absolutely True History of Baker Library

Baker library. Some call it the greatest physical construction in the history of humanity. Others call it a giant eyesore that takes away from the sheer beauty that is Spangler parking lot. Regardless, for thousands of years it has stood on the Harvard Business School campus as a beacon of intellectual curiosity, networking, and absurdly wealthy alumni patronage. As this year’s HBS Show centers around such a great symbol of accomplishment and wonder, we thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to Baker’s unique history.

Baker’s origins are as interesting as they are storied. Originally designed as a manufacturing plant for asbestos-filled pacifiers, then later converted into a makeshift greenhouse for celery farming, then redesigned as a shelter for the homeless people in Harvard Square, Baker Library didn’t officially become a library until 1974. It was at this point, that an anonymous donor, or “Phantom Donor” as he called himself, forked up the necessary $27.12 needed to convert the shelter into the proud structure you see today. Nobody ever identified this angel investor, but rumor has it that he was very attached to the building and even took up residence in it after getting a bad lottery position in the SFP and One Western room draw.

Over the years, the students’ perception of Baker has changed. While bloody riots over the lack of sufficient on-campus Consulting recruiting led to the torching of the structure every year from 1963-1984, students have grown to appreciate Baker in recent years. One student, who preferred to remain anonymous but mentioned 12 times in the span of a minute that he had an offer at Goldman, called Baker Library his home away from home, especially when his roommate puts a sock on the door. Another student, who verbally abused this writer and spat on a dog that walked by, called Baker Library the best “book-type place” he’d ever seen, although he was from New Jersey so his experience was limited. One final student, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said that Baker is a great place to meet with Hollywood agents. The student then identified himself as Kent Bennett, proceeded to explain in excruciating detail the new screenplay he had written, and followed this writer home. He’s still calling.

Although the students have grown to appreciate the hulking mass of information known as Baker Library, others do not view it with the same rose-colored glasses. Joe Girard – World’s Greatest Salesman, American patriot extraordinaire, and master of his own domain – criticized the librarians in Baker for not allowing him to wantonly throw business cards at people. Lindsay Lohan – Hollywood party girl and renowned food critic – decried the lack of an obvious bar. Michael Porter – some guy who works at Harvard – complained about Baker Library’s monopolistic existence and argued for competitive entry to improve market economics. Even Dean Light criticized Baker Library, calling it “the single greatest impediment in my quest to dominate the school.” Sources close to the Dean say they have no idea what he’s talking about, but that’s par for the course.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether students hate Baker or love it, spit on it or whisper sweet nothings at it, use it as a place to study or in which to “make babies”…it shall always remain as a symbol of the self-proclaimed brilliance and accomplishment contained within the halls of HBS. It is a powerful structure, even if it is an ugly one. But it deserves your respect. So the next time you walk by Baker, give it a hug and tell it how much you love it. Don’t worry, it’ll respect you in the morning.

April 17, 2007
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