Clanging and crashing from the weight room, Latin or hip-hop music or a tuba from the laundry room; the screeching and squealing of an air compressor; water dripping into empty food service cans. Such is the ambiance of the McMurdo Library. If you are lucky, you can hear all these sounds at once, although the dripping water is often drowned out by the cacophony of other sounds. Located between the laundry room and weight room in the rear of building 155 (the main dorm and galley building), the McMurdo Library is a surprisingly peaceful and relaxing place to be. The noise from outside the library provides more of a laugh than an annoyance. Inside, people are generally quiet and the surroundings provide for a nice place to relax. In addition to volunteering, I spend a great deal of free time here. To me, it is time better spent than sitting in the bars. Not that there is anything wrong with sitting in bars.
The library has over 8,000 books available for checking out. There is a specific section of Antarctic and Arctic books, as well as a section of travel guides. The library also includes a typical reference section in addition to a reference section specifically related to Antarctica. Books on tape and CD are available as are hundreds of music CDs. Patrons check out books by filling out the little card in the back of the book. The library volunteer then enters the information into a spreadsheet. Books are due back in three weeks. The whole thing functions on the honor system really. There are no fines for returning books late as sometimes it is impossible to return them on time. People take books out and then go to the Pole or remote field camps. The three book limit is also overlooked on occassion. Not that I would ever bend the rules when volunteering. Rules are rules!
The book catalog is rather diverse. While most of the books are newer, especially fiction, some of the books appear to be from when the station was first built. There are several copies of the complete Harry Potter series, the latest John Grisham, Stephen King, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich and other popular writers. The non-fiction sections are also well-stocked with history, geography, science and the like. There is also plenty of classic literature from Shakespeare to Chekhov to James Joyce and many others. For some reason there are several tomes on urology, including a three volume set of over 2,800 pages. Travel books and guides are very popular here as many people engage in fascinating trips after they leave the ice.
Throughout the library are pieces of art created by McMurdo residents. Paintings and drawings, ceramics and artwork made from wire, pipe and other materials, including a dragon. There are also some fake plants, which are rather comforting, given the fact that there are no real plants anywhere on the continent other than some mosses and lichen.
There are chairs throughout the library for solitary reading and areas with couches and chairs to sit with others. Two of these seating areas have wired internet connections for connecting your personal laptop. There is also a table up front where people do jigsaw puzzles, and a selection of magazines for enjoying in the library.
Like so much else here at McMurdo Station, the McMurdo Library provides the best it can with what it has in an eclectic, sometimes off-the-wall environment.