McCarthy: 21st-century Swem| November 12, 2008
The Earl Gregg Swem Library no longer is constrained by the traditional conception of library. When patrons walk through the doors, they are not met with the hushed tones and musty volumes that marked previous incarnations of such buildings. Instead, they enter a space that is open, fresh and alive with gentle banter and collaborative inquiry.
“The libraries are beginning to break down the walls and say, ‘We present a model of doing things in a different way for the campus,’” explained Connie Kearns McCarthy, dean of libraries at the College of William and Mary. “We are an intellectual center on campus.”
Recently McCarthy spoke of the 21st-century library during a video interview produced by the Office of University Relations and the Swem Media Center. Although she highlighted recent additions to Swem, including an upgraded special collections section, the new media center and lots of “collaborative” space, she emphasized that the library’s staff remain key to providing top-notch service in an age where Web presences such as Google and Wikipedia draw more and more students who are seeking information.
“In many ways, librarians are researchers,” she said. “It’s coupled with that teaching element, to help a student or faculty member, they have to engage in research to figure out what is the best approach. But rather than just saying here they are, there is that help side, saying here is how you locate materials.”
McCarthy said Swem continues to occupy a balance between the traditional and the cutting edge. Although it will continue to offer the latest in technological services, it will remain committed to its mandate, which is to serve the needs of faculty and students at the College.
“The concept of library is not going to go away,” she said. “It hasn’t gone away for how many thousands of years since Alexandria.”