Today, seated on the first floor of McCabe (Swat’s humanities and social sciences library), I was up to some casual multi-tasking: switching between a database search, Robert Penn Warren’s collected works, and Twitter. There, amid the stacks, I realized I’ve never really blogged on Swat’s library system. Now seems as good a time as ever. Here’s a list of practical and idiosyncratic things I particularly enjoy:
1. Swarthmore has distinct library cultures. By that, I mean that there’s a different atmosphere in our 3 main libraries (we technically have 7, if you count our collections). Cornell, our science and math library, naturally attracts students majoring in the hard sciences. The wall-length glass windows look out on the Crum Woods, giving the space a pristine and clean “feel” that I think matches up nicely with the neat and orderly sciences. Of course, there’s no librarian gatekeeper kicking out students who arn’t studying chemistry–and I’ve certainly invaded the space with my long, not-so-orderly articles for my American Lit seminar. But for the most part you see a lot of statistics or engineering problem sets spewing out of the printer. For me, it’s a nice change of pace and a really satisfying studying space. Underhill, our music and dance library, is probably the most beautiful place to open a book, given the tall trees that circle the back windows. Yesterday I watched the snowfall from one of those way-too-comfortable-for-your-own-good lounge chairs. There’s also something about being surrounded by texts on Bach and Mozart that encourages you to hum.
2. As most every Swarthmore tour/info session will surely have you know, Swat is apart of the Trico System with Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges. Even if you never take a course off-campus (I haven’t yet), TriCo is terrific because our library systems are joined. If, for instance, McCabe library has the chutzpah not to have that obscure text on underground poetry during the Brezhnev Era readily available on the shelf, I can open my laptop and get Bryn Mawr’s copy delivered within the next day or two. Picture your average liberal arts college library and then triple it!
3. Coffee, Tea & Cookies. Every night at 10pm, the McCabe staff puts out snacks to recharge students. It’s a chance to leave the recesses of your study space, snag a few Oreos, and chat with friends. Some people cheat and grab multiple snacks. Don’t tell.
4. The library texts me! Well, sort of. Technically, I text myself using the library website. Regardless, it’s nifty and helpful. When I search a text on the library catalog and am preparing to journey into the stacks, I can ask the site to text me the call-number. That way, I’m not stuck scrambling for scrap paper and jotting down a zillion digits from the Library of Congress’s crazy numerical system.
5. The librarians are actually helpful and kind and amazingly adept at locating every resource under the sun. As a kid, I loved libraries but disliked librarians, who inevitably judged the books I was reading or charged me fines or safe-guarded the printer lest you hand over an ungodly number of dimes. Thankfully, the Swarthmore librarians have redeemed my impression of librarians as smart and virtuous people.
6. We’re split 50/50 between Macs & PCs. Personally I have a Macbook, but there are times when I’d just prefer to do tasks on a PC. The option is nice, and Swat has a fair number of computers sprinkled throughout.
7. Unlimited Printing. Most Swatties are pretty environmentally conscious and try to avoid outright printing- bonanzas. With that said, if you need to print articles for class, or a paper draft, or meeting notes, go for it. Swat doesn’t have some complicated algorithm for how many pages you can print per semester. Just print what you need.
8. The hot water machine–on each floor! I bring a mug and brew tea as I work. If that’s unsuccessful, McCabe and Cornell are close to the coffee bars.