Re-Discovering the Libraries of Maryland

By Natasha Paleau, University of Maryland Public Health Student

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.”
-Sidney Sheldon, Author

In this age of information overload, when the internet and hand-held devices make it almost impossible to ever not know something, the library offers a constant, enduring location where we can go to learn.

There’s something undeniably unique about looking for what you need to know in the library. The physical act of searching for information, sitting quietly amongst stacks to browse content, surrounded by the smells and colors of thousands of books, journals, maps, and more, is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

The library is our place to go to be pensive, to search for information, to find answers to questions, or to find a quiet place to focus. The library can be a safe haven for the thoughtful, and a guardian for the creative. It can be a classroom, a meeting place, a retreat, a study space, and more. It is a sanctuary for those wishing to pursue intellectual wellness.

Here at the University of Maryland, there are several libraries to meet the diverse subject content needs and personalities here on campus. 

McKeldin Library

Of course, the behemoth of McKeldin Library is the flagship library of our campus. Climbing to the top of its seven floors is an achievement akin to scaling a mountain, with the ultimate reward of having access to the abundance of resources and services there. Intrepid explorers of McKeldin set out to discover (can expect to find) computer banks, study carrels, stacks, folios, references, photocopy services, maps, silent study rooms, periodicals, government documents, a graduate student study area, and much, much more.

If all of that sounds intimidating, there is always the charming little Art Library. In contrast to McKeldin, the Art Library in the Art and Sociology building is a small, peaceful space filled with bright natural light and a second floor study loft. Here you will find information on graphic design, art history, archeology, and more. The cozy layout is great for studying, and gives the feeling of a grand home library.

Right across the way from the Art Library is the Architecture Library, which houses over 65,000 titles in a number of subjects relating to architecture and design. The modern feel of the space is appropriate to the subject matter contained therein. One can get a lesson in architecture simply by observing its library.

For anyone in search of multimedia resources, Hornbake Library is the place to go. In addition to UM’s Nonprint Media Services, Hornbake houses the Library of American Broadcasting, National Public Broadcasting archives, The Gordon W. Prange Collection, and the National Trust for Preservation collection. There are several study rooms and spaces, as well as T.V.s, other media players, and screening/multimedia rooms. They even have transcribing machines for those of us who love qualitative research.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Library is deceptively large, and houses titles in the subjects of physics, engineering, mathematics, geology, computer science, environmental sciences, water resources, and aerospace science. There are multiple study spaces here, including carrels, computers, quiet areas, and group study spaces. There’s always a special exhibit on science and technology research, and the space is decorated with images of space, planets, nature, and technology.

The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library sometimes feels more like a luxury office space than a library, with private computer cubicles and comfy swivel chairs. Housed here are the special performing arts collections, the International Piano Archives, and more. The quiet calm of this space during midterms and finals is often a nice alternative to the chaos of some of the larger libraries.

For those of us interested in chemistry, life sciences, or public health, the White Memorial Chemistry Library offers a great amount of information and resources. Located in the Chemistry building, the library consists of three floors full of 80,000 volumes and access to over 450 journals.

The librarians at each of these locations are an invaluable resource to us on campus. Offering personalized help navigating the daunting volume of information, librarians are integral to the experience of searching for information. They catalog, categorize, and stack the thousands upon thousands of titles that we can then access with ease. Librarians are the gatekeepers to knowledge and the friendly faces of research.

As students, faculty, and staff, the libraries are here to support us in so many ways. We go to the libraries to read for pleasure and for coursework. We go to the libraries to find support for our research, to meet with our friends, or to have a quiet place to think. And while the internet may be the fastest way to acquire information, it can’t offer us the support and experiences that visiting a library can.

While intellectual wellness and the journey of lifelong learning is much more than the pursuit of “book smarts” and can be sought after just about anywhere, the library remains a great place to spark your imagination and satisfy your curiosity. It offers a unique sensory and tactile learning experience.

So, the next time you undertake an intellectual endeavor, consider doing it at one of the seven on-campus libraries. Let yourself be amazed at the scope and efficiency of this vital system!

Do you have a favorite library or study spot on campus? Where do you like to go to learn something new? Share with us in the comments below. 

Drop by the Stamp Food Court Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11:30am – 12:30pm to talk to a librarian about library services or help with research projects.

For more information about the University Libraries, visit www.lib.umd.edu.

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