Organizational Member Spotlight – Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore College Libraries in Swarthmore, PA joined ACRL in 1986 and has been an organizational member of ACRL for 32 years. We are proud to feature Swarthmore College Libraries.

1. Describe your library in 3 words: People, forum, ideas.

2. Describe ACRL in three words: Inspirational, professional, community.

4. What does your library (as an organizational member) value about ACRL? We value the opportunity for professional growth and the continued exchange of ideas with our fellow academics. Connecting with colleagues through ACRL allows us to move beyond our daily context and be reminded of the broader challenges and successes in academia/academic libraries. We also value the opportunities that our engagement with ACRL provides to shape the future of the profession.

5. What value does your library contribute to your campus? The Libraries are the center of community—the nexus of the academic and all the other aspects of the student experience—balancing our ambitious students’ seriousness of purpose with their need to recharge and decompress. The Libraries foster critical inquiry, scholarly discovery and engagement, innovation and creativity. We help our students to understand their role in the broader scholarly conversation through formal and informal learning opportunities.  For those students who seek to develop deeper research and information technology skills, we offer opportunities such as our seminar based library internship, our Lib/Lab Fellows in digital scholarship and our summer SPEED program in which students work with faculty, library, and IT staff to develop classroom ready applications ranging from visualizations of early English novels to a Navaho verb generator.

The Libraries are a leader in advancing the conversation on and progress towards a more just and inclusive campus whether through working with the Dean’s office to support first gen students, provisioning of texts and textbooks, addressing the need for accessible course materials, or working with students to develop a guide to allyship. The Libraries, like the College, have a strong history of involvement in social justice. Our Friends Historical Library and Peace Collection house important documents on topics such as Native American rights, abolitionism and nuclear disarmament.

We recognize the necessity of nurturing the whole student and creating space for fun, through activities such as crafty study breaks, the “Daily Grind” with late night coffee and snacks, leisure-focused collections such as our popular fiction, magazines, and comic books, and pop-up activities during finals such as giant Jenga. We aim to connect with our community on a personal level, to enable students to feel that this is their home. We are not about the grand reading room, we are about the living room.

6. In your own words: We decided to use our students’ own words to describe the Library:

“The Library is more than just a series of buildings at Swarthmore. Throughout my years here, I have come to know the Library as a network of academics and resources that offer support, even if you didn’t know you needed support in the first place. Discovering a new source in the Tripod network, as I’ve done for papers spanning from topics like the impact of local sheriff elections in the US to theorizations of literary history beyond postmodernism, is one of my favorite ways to use the Library. But, because it is Swarthmore, the Library is much more than an academic place. I’ll visit the Library to say hi and support a friend working late into the night, or use it as a meeting space to meet with those I mentor as a SAM (Student Academic Mentor.) Throughout my undergraduate career, Swarthmore’s libraries have been the places where I have learned to ask for help and shed my fear of saying the words “I don’t know.” Bobby Zipp, class ‘18.

“Like many others, the Library is home to me. What makes it different from every other library that I’ve ever known is that we’re encouraged to treat it like home too, with board games and Netflix and free coffee it’s a place for work, play and everything in between.

I love that the Library really is for everyone. With no monetary late fees and free printing and access to resources like iPads and headphones and even trashy reality television shows, it takes an important step towards leveling the playing field for students.

The Libraries are a microcosm of Swarthmore. They display the collaborative culture and feeling of community along with a dedication to the task at hand, whether that be problem sets or job applications or binge watching TV in the family room.” Spriha Dhanuka  ‘17

Editor’s Note: Is your library an ACRL organizational member? Would you like to be featured in our Organizational Member Spotlight feature? Contact Mary Jane Petrowski at for more information.