The McMurdo Library

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.

Library Open

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!

Entering the McMurdo Station Library.

Entering the McMurdo Station Library.

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.

Library Rear

The view from the back of the library looking toward the front.

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.

Skua wants a cracker.

Skua wants a cracker.

Artwork made of pipe, chain, wire and cymbals.

Artwork made of pipe, chain, wire and cymbals.

A dragon guards the fiction.

A dragon guards some of the fiction.

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.

One of my favorite spots. The writings on the wall remind me of my brilliant and beautiful wife.

One of my favorite spots. The writings on the wall remind me of my brilliant and beautiful wife.

Another favorite spot.

Another favorite spot.

Seating area with internet.

Seating area with internet.

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.

15 comments to The McMurdo Library

  • ChuckP

    “Not that I would ever bend the rules when volunteering. Rules are rules!”

    Just saw 8-Below, the movie about a dog sledder at one of the out sites. Do they have dog sleds at McMurdo, or was it purely fiction? You are doing a great job reporting on the ins and outs of life on the post. I do hope you get a chance to get to one of the outposts, if not the South Pole. Enjoy and keep up the good work.

  • Chris

    Great work… the pics and updates have been amazing!

  • Scott

    Dogs are no longer in use in Antarctica. They were used extensively in the early years of exploration, and into the 1970s when they were used as a back-up to mechanical transport or for recreational travel.
    Due largely to concerns that distemper would spread from dogs to seals, the Antarctic Treaty includes the following (added in 1991): “Dogs shall not be introduced onto land or ice shelves and dogs currently in those areas shall be removed by April 1, 1994.”
    The last dogs were removed from Antarctica on Feb. 22, 1994.

  • Mom

    Great job with all your additional updates & interesting facts. Sounds like you’ve been in Antartica a lot longer than you have been. I know you’ve read about it quite a bit and continue to; it shows! Terrific job!

  • Kristen Kessel Ellison

    I met a guy from New Zealand (whose girlfriend of 10 years lives all the way in Montreal!) yesterday, but I waited until today to tell him my brother was in NZ recently and Antarctica now. He was quite excited to hear this and asked, “is he in McMurdo or…” to which I emphatically shouted, “YES McMurdo, you’ve heard of this place!?!” We had quite a pleasant conversation about NZ and AQ while we basked in the 95 degree sun drinking mango-tangos. It’s quite nice discussing ice ridges while I’m on the beach. ;-)

    I love your ‘favorite spots’ especially with the quotes on the wall reminding you of your brilliant and beautiful wife. She is awesome, eh?

    Keep the updates coming! I love seeing your ‘daily life’ just as much as the amazing hikes & nature shots. Rock on!

  • ChuckP

    Thanks for the dog update. The movie takes place in 1993 so I guess it could jave happened.

  • Matt V

    The “Antarctic Treaty” December 1st, 1959, officially setting it aside as a scientific preserve free of military activity. Happy birthday! Any parties? By the way, apparently it expires in 2041.

  • TC

    Did I see the Gardener News on the table?

  • Marcelo

    Who works at this library? I’m currently working on my MLS and would love to work/intern at the McMurdo Library… anyone I can talk to about it? Mssg me!

  • Hello Scott,
    I’ve been keenly interested in Antarctica- particularly McMurdo Station- for some time now. I’m a full-time librarian in the mountains of Colorado and would love to send some books your way/ be a sister library/ etc. How can we become involved? What materials would be of use for your collection? Following your library has been enlightening, it sounds like a great place.
    Also, what would need to be done for me to be personally involved there within the next two years? It’s a goal of mine to work a season in Antarctica and if the library could be a part of that, so much the better.


  • Anthony T. Andong

    Dear Scott,
    Are there any libraries in Antarctica? Or is it all Special Libraries? I was task to research about Libraries of Antartica and I cannot find for some references detailing the Library processes and Library Services and types and if How those libraries being finance under Antarctica. Kindly help me for these matter. Thank you very much.

  • Dave Medearis

    Question:how can I donate a couple of permaculture gardening books to the library? Among other things, I curious enough about what you might grow there to front the books and shipping costs?

  • Hi. David Brin here, science fiction author. (See below). How does one donate books to the libraries at McMurdo and South Pole and other bases? I’ll also pass word on to members of SFWA – the Science Fiction Writers of America.
    David Brin

    BIO == David Brin is an astrophysicist whose international best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed by Kevin Costner), Earth, and recently Existence. Dr. Brin serves on advisory boards (e.g. NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program or NIAC) and speaks or consults on a wide range of topics including AI, SETI, privacy and national security.

  • Hello there,

    I’m librarian from Slovenia and I would like to come to work one month in your library. Is this possible?
    Thank you,
    Špela Pahor

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>