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February 12, 2012

Wild Libraries I Have Known: Quiet Reading Room at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station

How exciting that the Wild Libraries series hits its 5th continent with this post by Laura Conchelos, perhaps our wildest post yet (or at least most extreme). I met Laura nearly twenty years ago, and ever after, she’s been one of my most fascinating friends.  I enjoy her adventures vicariously, and delight in the Christmas cards to the South Pole that our friendship gives me occasion to send.

It may not look like much but the Quiet Reading Room at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station is pretty important to us. We work for the United States Antarctic Program which runs and supports science at the South Pole with the National Science Foundation. Unlike many libraries these days, it’s strictly books and magazines here with some audio books and CDs thrown in for good measure. For our computer needs, we use our own laptops in our rooms or go to the computer room.

This room isn’t as cute or cozy as many libraries but it is chock full of good reading for those with the patience to look. Most recent bestsellers can be found here, left by someone else and available for the taking. I usually end up with a stack of books from this room next to my bed that I have to return at the end of our four-month season. Usually I haven’t read half of them! By the end of the 8-month South Pole winter, the Reading Room looks grand, as somebody often has taken it under his or her wing and put energy into reorganizing and labeling the books. Most of the books are novels but there are history books, short stories, poetry, travel, religion and education sections, amongst others. Just as the books get donated over the years, the reading room has been decorated with odds and ends over time, my favorite items being the masks that were made for our wearable art show a few years ago and which can be seen here.

A locked cabinet in the room keeps most of the Antarctic-themed books and other coveted reading. Most of the knitting books get kept in the cabinet, as do the travel guides like the Lonely Planet. All one needs to do to sign these books out is get the keys from the store during its daily hours of operation.

Apart from pilfering for good reading or doing crossword puzzles here on Sundays (our one day off), I spend little time in this room. It does get a lot of use from others, however. As the station is such a public place, there are not many locations within it that offer some sort of quiet. People go here to read, write letters, and nap when they don’t want to make the long trek to their rooms. This room is also used by visiting clergy for Masses and church services.

4 thoughts on “Wild Libraries I Have Known: Quiet Reading Room at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station”

  1. Melwyk says:

    Now that is the kind of friend to have! What a wonderful post… I now wish to go to the Antarctic even more, if that is possible. I love the pictures and the info on the organization of the library, locked cabinet and all!

  2. Claire says:

    What a fascinating place and how heartening to know it exists. Worlds within worlds indeed.

  3. Laura says:

    I heard about this station by watching “Frozen Planet,” but the show didn’t mention anything about a library!!! Jeez, Sir Attenborough. PRIORITIES!

    Kerry, is it possible for a non-polar (you know what I mean…) person to donate a book?

  4. Martin says:

    As a Library worker myself, I’d like to put in a transfer!

    Does the base have a Twitter/Facebook account?

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