On National Library Day it was fun to take stock of the value of public libraries and even those obscure ones in the Antarctic.
Here’s Scott Base’s Library, courtesy of New Zealand’s Antarctic Program digital assets.
A blurb on Scott Base so you see how remote the reading is:
Scott Base has been New Zealand’s permanent base in Antarctica since 1957. The Base provides services and accommodation for the many scientific research parties and groups who visit Antarctica during the summer. The Base is located on Ross Island in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Ross Island is 3932 km (2114 nautical miles) from Christchurch New Zealand and 1500 km from the South Pole. The Antarctic mainland is 70 km across McMurdo Sound from Scott Base. The closest neighbour to Scott Base is the American base, McMurdo Station, at 3km distance.
Lets pop over to a US Library in the Antarctic at McMurdo Station, run by the US Antarctic Program. You already have a sense that this is thousands of km from big libraries and here it’s the old-school honour system, no electronic phone calls that your books are late. From a blog Scott Afar of a one-time McMurdo Library volunteer:
“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!”
Here’s an interior, houseplant and all.
As you wander across the continent you’ll reach another scientific base, Casey Station run by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) where their library even has puzzles and games. The Librarian Ben “is too modest to mention himself is that on top of his day job, he also keeps the base library running! He has support from a Librarian back at Australia Antarctic Division headquarters in Tasmania”, according to a special blog guest post about International Games at libraries.
Here’s Casey station and its nicely lined shelves.
Bellingshausen station where we lived, the Russian station up on the Antarctic peninsula had a few lounging spaces with a pool table, a major film room and books, but in Russian. We had the books we brought and of course the couple referral cookbooks Wendy carried with her. Not much time to read.
Lets take a last look at the UK’s state of the Art, Halley IV Research Station that floats on the Brunt ice shelf on the edge of Antarctica, where UK scientists first observed the hole in the ozone layer. It’s run by the British Antarctic Survey.
The station has a 1,510 metre sq base features a library, a TV room, a gym, and a communal area with a pool table and dartboard on top of scientific labs.
Here’s to reading wherever, whenever, and to libraries.