The survivors come out to study

It’s a Thursday afternoon on the first full week of 2000, and the level of activity on campus, like the temperature, is low.

Half the food trucks are taking an extended vacation, and there are no lines at those that remain. And there are few people on the walkways.

Where is everybody?

Many of those who are still around, it seems, are in the library.

The main floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is a relative beehive. About a dozen students and faculty are using the computer terminals at the reference desk, and another 15 or so people are using the carrels and desks that line the perimeter of the floor — including one scholar with chips and a Coke, a library no-no.

Downstairs, there’s even life in the not-quite-finished Rosengarten Reserve Room. All eight computers in the reserve stacks are in use, and two or three hardy students are studying.

The pattern repeats itself in Wharton’s Lippincott Library on the second floor — a cluster of students here, one or two over there.

“You’d be surprised how many people are here during the break,” said Lippincott reference clerk Doane Hollins.

Many of them, it seems, are the students who don’t go home for the holidays because it’s too far away or students who live right here. “We get a lot of students who stay here over the break coming in, and we also get students from other colleges visiting folks at home who come here to study because they can get in [to the library] with their drivers’ licenses,” Hollins said.

But even with these visitors, it’s still much quieter than during the year, though Hollins pointed out that library usage varies during the term as well, starting out slow and building until the crush of finals.

And that quiet means that the reference staff can spend more time helping out patrons. “We’ve had some very happy people leave here this week because I could spend more time answering their questions — people like yourself,” he said.

But not everyone can be satisfied, not even now. Take those who want to study late, or working people. “I’ve had several calls this week from people wanting to know if we’re open on the evenings or weekends, and oh, the groans I get,” said Drexel library science student Marcie Bierlein, an intern at the Lippincott reference desk.


Originally published on January 20, 2000