Fact of the Day

Fun facts about McCabe Library; or at least facts.

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"Swat in a Nut-Shelf"

In 2002, McCabe was the focus of a Sociology/Anthropology senior's thesis, entitled "Swat in a Nut-Shelf: The Relationship between Libraries and their Communities". This is pretty sweet, but mostly serves as a vehicle for me to mention that Cornell had a senior re-write the lyrics of Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" as an ode to the science library. If you don't know the song: 

Here are the first few lines of the re-write: "it's been twelve hours and 100 days / since I earned my B.A. / i go out every night and pipette all day / since I earned my B.A / since i've been gone I can graph whatever i want / i can learn whatever i choose." Prince, who wrote the lyrics for the original, would be proud.

So, what I'm saying is, whoever re-writes a song with lyrics that act as an ode to McCabe to rival this Cornell student's dedicated effort will get candy. Whoever writes the best one, as judged by a highly respected panel of library workers, will get more candy than everybody else. Fair warning: entries using Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus or One Direction songs aren't banned, but will more than likely hurt your chances.



Back in the dark days when AIM and Yahoo IM were not only remembered, but were considered the way to stay in touch with friends [roughly 2002], the reference department at McCabe jumped on the bandwagon and gave students who hated speaking on the phone everything they ever dreamed of: Students were able to IM a librarian with research questions. That's right. Students could ask their research questions from the comfort of their own dorm rooms and get instantaneous answers without having to deal with any telephone-induced anxiety


Compact shelving

In the fall of 2005, the compact shelving that houses the government documents and locked compact materials was added to McCabe in an effort to increase shelving capacity. In case you are one of the lucky few who haven't yet had to tangle with the compact shelving, they're the big, gray, moving shelves on the lower level of the library (not moving of their own accord in a cool Hogwarts type way, but more in the sense that they have the capability of moving through your own manual labor).

For those of us who may sometimes feel like the space between the shelves is closing in on us [or could], rest assured that you aren't in any actual danger of being squashed like a bug by the hundreds of documents you're rooting through, it's just a bout of claustrophobia.


Free to a good home

The Rand McNally geophysical globe, donated by Arthur Magill '29, has been up for grabs since at least the Spring of 2002. Any institution that can come up with a plan to disassemble and reassemble the globe can have it for free. That's right, the globe, which originally cost $12,020 in 1967 can be "purchased" for the low, low price of coming up with a way to get it out of the library...


Bonus facts: The globe actually used to sit at the correct axis of 23.5 degrees and was powered by a small motor that allowed it to rotate. It also used to have lights. 


ILL's new location

In the summer of 1999, the interlibrary loan office (ILL) moved to its current location across from the elevator on the main floor of McCabe.

Where was it before? In the area we now think of as the reference librarians' offices, near the back of the Honors stacks.


**Bonus: In the spring of 1999, the ILL office limited student requests to 10 ILL items per day.


Library Hours Over the Years

McCabe's library hours have gone through a few changes over the years.

In Spring of 1999, the hours were listed as follows:

Monday through Thursday: 8:15-1:00am
Friday: 8:15am- 10:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday: Noon - 1:00am

The hours changed in the fall of 2003:

M-Th: 8:15 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.
F: 8:15 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sat: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sun: 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m

In the spring of 2008, McCabe piloted the hours that we have all become accustomed to (except the students who faithfully come to McCabe at 9am on Saturday thinking it's open, they're apparently possessed by Swarthmore alums from the class of '99):

Monday-Thursday: 8 am - 2 am
Friday: 8 am - 11 pm
Saturday: 10 am - 8 pm
Sunday: 10 am - 2 am 


Mary Ann Wood comes to Swarthmore

In the Fall of 1999, the face of the library changed forever (or at least 15 years): Mary Ann Wood became McCabe's new Evening Supervisor in the Circulation department.

Before her arrival, there was some very odd system in place in which staff members would come in for the day, leave, and then come back to fill the evening hours on some rotation cycle.** This was back in the dark days before Alison Masterpasqua took over as the head of the Access and Lending department.


**I have had this system explained to me twice and still don't quite understand it, so if you want to know how this worked in any detail, ask Linda or Alison! They lived through it!


Overnight reserves

In the Fall of 2000, the overnight policy for general reserves underwent a drastic change to become the policy that students have come to know and exploit: students would now be able to check out books from 9:30pm until 9:30am instead of 9:00pm to 9:00am. That's right. A whole extra half an hour of sleep. 

Plus, online bookings became possible through Tripod!


PALCI/EZ-Borrow comes to Swarthmore

In the Fall of 2000, McCabe library's Interlibrary Loan office introduced a new way for students to get the materials they need: PALCI/Direct borrowing or, as we call it now, EZ-Borrow a.k.a those books with the blue bands.

Bonus fact: PALCI actually stands for Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. Who knew? 

Pillows in McCabe

Students have been asking for pillows to be put in McCabe since at least 1970 to be used by all those "who want to sleep but don't want to make the long trek back to [their] rooms." (Phoenix, 12/15/70). This suggestion has remained popular over the years, but due to concerns about hygiene, has yet to be enacted. We do have ridiculously large bean bags though, so I guess we're getting closer to that promised land of pillow-y goodness!


Renewing books online

In the spring of 2004, Tripod took one step closer on its path to being the powerhouse that we recognize today by allowing students to renew books online for the first time. For the students who know about this feature (surprisingly, despite being in place for over a decade, many still don't), it's unthinkable to suggest that you would have to come to the library or call in order to renew your books.


Steliot Committee

McCabe Library was officially dedicated in December 1967, but complaints about its facilities began several months earlier. In October '67, the Phoenix published a letter to the editor entitled "Steliot Shortage". The anonymous letter-writer raged against the paucity of men's "steliot" in the building (if you can't guess what he meant, try spelling it backwards). 

The crux of the issue was that McCabe's three men's rooms each had two urinals and only one stall, though the stalls were far more popular, and the writer doesn't hesitate to tell you why (spoiler: defecation). He does so in a cute allegorical story about a Turkish "prince" who finds that his "palace" doesn't have enough places in which he can "unburden" himself. Clearly, either he or the editors of the Phoenix were deeply, deeply embarrassed about printing words even obliquely related to bodily functions. 

The letter must have struck a nerve, because the 1968 Halcyon mentions an informal student group known as the McCabe Library Steliot Committee, "formed by spontaneous underclassmen for the benefit of their fellow men". There is no mention of how Swattie women felt about their own McCabe restrooms. 

Student Theses

Swat student theses, formerly housed at McCabe, are now online. You no longer have to come to the library itself to satisfy your curiosity about subjects like these (yes, these are actual thesis titles):

  • Where Do People Sit? (1985)
  • Sociability and the Hitchhiker (1971)
  • Electrical Characterization of Uterine Tissue in Rats (1994)
  • Acoustic Levitation and Positioning of Objects in Water (1991)
  • Autonomous Can Detector (1997)

The database format also makes it easier to detect possible plagiarism among thesis writers. Now, I'm not saying the author of "Symmetric Double-Sided Slotted Jet Impingement of a Cylinder in Crossflow with Constant Heat Flux" (1990) definitely cribbed notes from "Slotted Jet Impingement of a Cylinder in Crossflow with Constant Heat Flux" (1988), but come on: How many people are interested in cylinders in crossflow with constant heat flux? Get real. Everyone knows dynamic heat flux is the wave of the future. 

Suggestions, suggestions, suggestions

Though the Suggestion Book has become a staple of McCabe library, filled with requests ranging from new titles to add to our video and book collections to having a giraffe in the atrium as well as pictures drawn by those who are artistically inclined, it first began as a legitimate suggestion box way back in 2001.

Feeling that this wasn't in line with Swarthmore's love of dialogue, a former Reference and Instruction Intern decided to set a blank notebook at the circulation desk in 2005 and the rest, as we say, is history.


Thanks for stopping by McCabe, please show us the contents of your bag

Up until the Fall of 1999, McCabe had receptionists who, as part of their job, would have to search students' bags as they left the library to be sure that no materials went out without being properly checked out. 

What changed? Well, much to the relief of the students (and probably the receptionists as well) we installed the security system we still use today!

The Beginning of Penalty Points

In the Spring of 1999, the library staff made the decision to implement a new penalty points system. When the policy was first rolled out at the Reserves Desk in the Fall of 1999, this is what it looked like:

  • Overdue reserve books cost 1 penny per hour and accrued one penalty point per hour
  • Any student that accumulated 20 points were blocked from overnight reserves and could be reported to the Dean's office.

Sound familiar? It should. It's more or less the same as our current reserves policy. If you want to compare more closely, click here.


**Please note that the attached article states that there was a $1 fine as well as a penalty point for each hour overdue, but after consulting with Reserves Desk experts, this was exposed as a typo.

The Daily Grind at McCabe

We all know that students love the free coffee that's offered in McCabe on weeknights, but did you know they used to pay for the privilege of coffee? As it turns out, McCabe used to have its very own coffee bar, "The Daily Grind", which sold Fair Trade coffee as well as treats from the local bakery "Occasionally Yours". Unfortunately, due to the fact that they couldn't break even on the finances, it was shut down in 2004. In fact, the vending machines in the basement of McCabe were an attempt to "help fill the void left by the closing of the coffee bar".

The library has been beneficently enabling students' in their caffeine addiction since the spring of 2006 when dining services began providing us with the free coffee that current students know and crave.

The Fabled Fourth Floor of McCabe

Up until around 2005, McCabe actually had a 4th floor. As it turns out, students, enraged by the sounds of the buzzer demanding that they leave the library staged a coup and destroyed the 4th floor of McCabe during the revolt. There's actually a panel of ceiling in the Rare Book Room that still leads up to that floor, though all of the stairs have been closed off and the elevator no longer lists it as an option.

Alright, fine. They actually changed the numbering system for the floors of McCabe. The Lower Level was known as Level 1, the main floor was known as Level 2, the 2nd floor was known as Level 3 and the 3rd floor was Level 4. Students do really hate the buzzer though, so it could have happened... and could still.

Toilet Papers are "rolled out"

In the spring of 2004, the staff of McCabe library took the plunge and dedicated itself to producing the "lavatory literature" known as the Toilet Papers, now a staple of the bathroom stalls in McCabe. The effort was spearheaded by Anne Garrison, our former humanities librarian, Justin Clarke, a technical services specialist, and our very own Linda Hunt!


Note: You can be sure that any puns in this Fact of the Day were lifted from the original announcement concerning the Toilet Papers and not, unfortunately, a mark of my creative/linguistic genius.

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