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The 1914 Library is a little building recessed from Water Street, located behind and in fact attached to Water Street Books. Its sole purpose is to stock books used in courses at Williams and loan them, during open hours, to students on financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Students quick and lucky enough to take advantage of the library can save up to hundreds of dollars a semester, as long as they don't mind not owning the books they use.
Using the Library
You can never tell how good the 1914 Library will be to you any particular semester. You might get all your necessary textbooks one semester, and get only a few cheap paperbacks the next. It all depends on what classes you're taking, how long the class has existed, how new the editions it "requires" are, the library's holdings versus student demand, and how early you get into the library.
But there are some things a financial aid student can do to maximize his or her chances of getting the most out of the library in any given semester.
The best thing you can do for yourself is volunteer for the library. Before the beginning of every semester, Felicia Pharr solicits for volunteers on financial aid. Keep your eye on the Daily Messages and Daily Advisor during the month before a new semester.
In exchange for working three hours at a time of high need, volunteers get to reserve for themselves the books they need on the day before the general student rush. The reservation may be good for the current semester or the next, but either way, it is golden. Be sure to make it to the library on your reservation day, however. You only get one chance during a few hours to set the books aside, or your golden ticket is lost.
While you're volunteering, you'll probably be listening to the radio over a little boombox in the corner of the library. It'll be tuned to a pop station playing such hits as Hey Ma and Avril Levigne's latest. Yes, despite the sweetly Felicia Pharr's snowy white hair, she's has a youthful palate for tunes that developed from years of listening to what her volunteers played and sang to.
Get There Early
The next best thing to volunteering you can do is simply get there early. We're talking the first day of opening, no later than two hours before opening time if you want anywhere near the front of the "bread line" that forms. Coming early at all will help you out, but by an hour before opening it's already basically a full house. Oh -- if you're one of those people who gets crabby without a morning coffee, drink it. Things get a little crazy, and it takes everyone's staying cool to keep the parade moving.
Once upon a time, getting to the 1914 Library early was a really, really big deal. Until 2004 (unsure of semester), opening hour on the first day was 8 am. Because financial aid students really could save hundreds by getting there early, and because Williams students can be really stubborn and outdoorsy, it was extremely common for people to come at 5 am or earlier, and stories of students sleeping the night in the parking lot there are known.
Largely out of her infinitely merciful nature, Felicia Pharr decided in 2004 to push opening hour on the first day back to noon (10 am?). This hasn't created any unfairness in the system, except perhaps for disadvantaging the hardcore borrowers and making the future generation of 1914 Library legends more unlikely.
This is the only service of the 1914 Library open to students not on financial aid!
At the beginning of each semester, and especially at the beginning of the academic year, the Library puts all the books that it will be discarding out on tables, for any interested person to take. These tables hold an assortment of all kinds of things, and sometimes include stacks of textbooks -- equivalent to gold bricks to the wise student.
How do dozens of valuable, usable textbooks end up on the discard pile? Sometimes the books really are out of date, and it's time to get rid of them. But very often, and in the cases most valuable to students, the textbook is the second-to-last edition of a textbook that just got revised, and the professor(s) of the relevant course is/are demanding that students use the most updated version. In these cases, the coordinator of the 1914 Library always asks the instructors if the editions she has on hand will be usable, and if they say yes, she'll loan what she has.
But sometimes a professor will insist that students must have the new edition. Some professors have even demanded that the 1914 Library refrain from lending what they have at all, under pain of suit. This leads to the discards. By all means, if you feel you need to be on the cutting edge of, say, introductory-level psychology, go ahead and shell out $110 for the latest version of the PSYC 101 text. But if you can handle the rearrangement of a few page numbers and maybe some photocopying time in Schow, check the free books tables early and often.
Get Your Voucher
Even if you wake up at 2 pm on opening day and your lazy ass gets down there to find the shelves are empty except for our one million copies of Plato's The Republic, the library is not useless to you (if you're on financial aid).
For every aid student there is a voucher in his or her name that can be redeemed at Water Street Books. There are two denominations of voucher; each semester you may use only one. Anything purchased with voucher money in any part becomes property of the 1914 Library -- so holster your highlighter.
$60 Voucher. Your $60 voucher may be used for $60 worth of books, for a single book or many. It must be used within a month, and any unused parts are completly lost.
Expensive Book Voucher. If and only if you are in a course requiring purchase of a book costing $100 or more, you may trade in your unusued $60 voucher for a $100 voucher to be used towards the purchase of that single book.
The $100 voucher only became available in Spring 2004. Credit for its existence goes to the efforts of Ali Moiz '06 on behalf of College Council, and the cooperation of Paul Boyer of Financial Aid and Felicia Pharr. The generosity of Financial Aid in this form serves the needs of financial aid students and the 1914 Library, which most needs expensive textbooks for its collection, as they are used most widely and longest in Williams courses.