The John Harris Memorial Collection of books written by Old Boys was established in 1986. It owes its start to an idea of Arnold Wall (2983) and Ormond Wilson (3570). The idea was supported by the then Headmaster, Dr MJ Rosser, and the Deputy Headmaster, DG Hamilton. Arnold Wall wrote to every Old Boy who he knew was an author, suggesting the donation of a book for the collection and many were happy to oblige. The scope of the collection has subsequently expanded to include offprints, books written by staff and the Board of Governors, and books about Old Boys.
Arnold Wall was responsible for having the collection named after John Harris (2767), who had inspired him – and many other boys – to read books. John was the grandson of College’s third headmaster, William Chambers Harris, and son of Edward (known as Peter) Harris (905). John Harris was Head Prefect in 1922, a member of staff (1923–1926 and 1930–1931) and established the Kit-Kat Club with a view to fostering interest in contemporary literature and the arts. Play reading, creative writing, outside speakers and discussion were planned.
John Harris had a distinguished career as a librarian at the University of Otago. Later, he was librarian at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, where he became Vice Chancellor in 1964 and Chancellor from 1966–1968. In 1968, he was appointed Professor of Library Studies at the University of Ghana, and then returned to Nigeria to help with the foundation of a new university in Benin. He retired to Malta.
This collection may be one of the few in New Zealand that celebrates the writing of Old Boys, staff and the Board of Governors. The aim is to obtain a copy of work published by those who have a College connection.
Authors are invited to donate their books to the collection.
The collection has more than 1300 items and is located on the first floor of the Library in Big School. The books may be accessed – by appointment – on the premises, but are not available for borrowing.
The items have been catalogued as a separate collection, with the College Library Catalogue, and any duplicates transferred to the CCOBA meeting room.