With Second Floor Shelves Gone, Changes Coming to McCabe Library

Swarthmore’s library staff have big changes planned for McCabe, the College’s largest library. During fall break, the shelving on McCabe’s second floor was moved out, opening up space for additional study rooms in the 50-year-old library.

Peggy Seiden, the College Librarian, noted that the change is a part of a years-long process to renovate and expand space in McCabe to accommodate growth in both collections and the student body.

“This has been in the planning for years. [The idea] was that we would open up this floor. The question was what would we do with it,” she said.

To accommodate growth in collections, McCabe moved the government documents from the second floor to other locations.

“The first part of the project was to go through the government documents, buy what we could digitally, and move a lot of stuff off-site. We actually gave away certain materials to the San Francisco Public Library. We had to install two new sections of compact shelving on the lower level to accommodate the remaining government documents,” Seiden said.

The change is a part of the library staff’s vision for McCabe moving forward. While the space remains mostly empty for now – save for individual tables alongside the windows and a few larger tables – the plan is to eventually move McCabe’s tech, processing, and acquisitions staff – who are currently situated behind the wall next to Honors Reserves on the first floor – to this location on the second floor.

“We were thinking the first three bays would be enough to accommodate the processing staff because processing of physical material, as you can imagine, has decreased a great deal,” Seiden said. “The people who were working that area, they’ve not had really great offices. Many of them are managers and don’t have private spaces to have conversations.”

Once staff move to the second floor, Seiden hopes to transform the space in which processing is currently situated into a digital scholarship lab, where students could work on projects with each other and with faculty.

“We would have staff there, but we would have spaces like an area where students could work with faculty and staff, and we would have hoteling for academic technologists to come over and work,” she said.

Seiden noted that even once tech and processing staff move to the second floor, there will still be a good deal of open space on the second floor

“When we started talking about this, we had conversations with focus groups of students and faculty,” she said.“One of the things that kept coming up was the idea of the grand reading room that we don’t have in this space. And we knew that was probably something we wanted to do, but we wanted to try different types of furniture configurations.”

The current plan for some of the space on the second floor is to add four additional group study spaces. Seiden hopes to get this done during the summer of 2018.

“They’ll have writable walls, and glass … It has to go through the capital budget process, but Facilities has a line item in their budget for these rooms. And we have leftover money in our budget from moving the stacks, and buying new compact shelving, and doing the shift to refinish this space,” she said.

However, the long-term plans aren’t set in stone, as the money for moving processing and tech to the second floor has not yet been allocated, and library staff are still figuring out exactly how they want to utilize space.

“We’re still waiting for the College to decide what’s the right timing for doing the actual moving tech services up here,” Seiden said. “It could be a couple years, it could be five years. We just don’t know because that money isn’t anywhere in the budget. That’s a big, expensive project.”

In the near-term, students can expect new chairs to arrive in McCabe during winter break to replace the wooden chairs on the second floor.

“We’re going to buy [new chairs] this year to replace some of these wooden chairs. I mean, these chairs are classic; they’re mid-century modern. They were done in 1967. But if you’re going to sit on them for hours, [they’re] not very comfortable,” she said.

Featured image courtesy of The Daily Gazette.


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