Fact of the Day

Fun facts about McCabe Library; or at least facts.

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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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