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Adam Varnes, 1977-2006

10 January 2007

Adam Varnes died on 8 December 2006 at the tragically young age of 29. He had joined the staff of the University in November 2003 in his first professional post after training for a career in librarianship.

Adam was born on 17 August 1977 and grew up at the family home in Horrabridge, on the edge of Dartmoor. After secondary education at Tavistock College, he went on to graduate in Greek and Roman Studies at Exeter University before completing an MA in Library and Information Studies at University College London. Following training placements at Plymouth University and Christ Church College Oxford, Adam joined us in November 2003 as a cataloguer. His specialist areas were classics and archaeology, and he was also a member of our Relegation Team looking after stock editing and disposal and the Library Store.

Adam took his work very seriously and enjoyed both the challenges and the companionship. His cataloguing was always of the highest standard. He was keen and reliable, with a gentle sense of humour which was highly valued by his colleagues. His friendly and helpful nature was illustrated by the fact that he was soon in demand when extra help or cover was needed at the issue desk, and he was always willing to step into the breach. Adam’s enthusiasm was contagious. He was also one of the most smartly dressed members of staff, and his collection of ties, that increasingly rare item of dress for young men, was famously large.

Adam was a member of the team which moved the Store from the former research station site at Long Ashton to new quarters in Brislington. His meticulous attention to detail was an essential quality in this transfer of more than a quarter of a million books from one side of the city to the other. He checked every consignment leaving Long Ashton with extreme thoroughness, practically getting into the crates of books and certainly getting in the removal men’s way. They nevertheless viewed him with respect and affection and gave him the nickname of Harry Potter for his youthful looks and round glasses.

Planning the move entailed hours of careful thought and the team got to know Adam well during the days spent at Long Ashton and in the various pubs where Adam enjoyed huge fry-ups during working lunches. He liked to talk about his family, his friends and his many hobbies and interests. He enjoyed music of all kinds. He talked about his love of organ music (he played the instument in his parish church, St John the Baptist, Horrabridge), but also his fondness for Kylie Minogue and his pleasure at attending her pop concerts. Adam was very interested in steam railways. He loved animals: he kept cold water fish in an aquarium at home in Devon, and he particularly enjoyed walking the family dog over the moors around his village.

Adam had a measured opinion about most subjects and he was happy to give his views in a gentle way. He was always truthful and without any form of malice. He was unafraid to voice his opinions, even if unpopular, and during the Store move he memorably asked the removal men to “mind their language in front of the ladies”.

Adam’s sudden death, from a cyst on the brain and other hitherto unsuspected complications, came as a terrible shock to his friends and colleagues in the Library. His closest colleagues were amazed to discover how many other staff throughout the Library system came forward to say that they had met him and enjoyed his company. A large contingent travelled to Devon to attend his funeral and share with his family a celebration of the short life of this fine and loveable young man.

Peter King

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