Library Spaces Focus Groups: February 2023

The Student UX Team ran two additional focus groups on the topic of Swarthmore’s Library spaces. This feedback amplified what we heard last October and provided some additional insight into why students prefer Cornell to McCabe coalescing around the following themes:


  • Most students have at least one STEM major, making the Cornell collections more relevant
  • Singer Hall [the new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology building] helps create a center of gravity with the Science Building and Cornell Science Library
  • Food is a huge factor. The new Dining Center is on the opposite end of campus from the science buildings, so many students choose to eat in the Science Center Cafe and so use Cornell instead.
  • McCabe was known for strict rules during the pandemic (no eating in the library) which sent people to Cornell since the Science Center Cafe is right there.
  • “If you’re not going to the new dining center, why would you go to McCabe?”


  • There’s better visibility in Cornell. You can easily find a friend in Cornell. McCabe is like a lair – it’s hard to find people.
  • People want to socialize more after the pandemic restrictions and Cornell is better for that.
  • McCabe is old fashioned and has a reputation that isn’t inviting. Cornell is newer and cleaner.
  • “McCabe is a prison. You only go there when you have to.”

Let’s Talk About McCabe

I study there because:

  • It has a nice mix of brightly lit and dim spaces and it’s close to my dorm
  • It’s close to Narples [the new Dining Center] but no other reason

I don’t study there because:

  • The vibe is off, not as positive as other libraries 
  • Other libraries are closer; when they go to McCabe, it’s because it’s just the most convenient
  • McCabe is like one very long hallway

I would use McCabe more often if:

  • There were food nearby
  • My friends studied there
  • It were closer to academic buildings

McCabe needs:

  • More windows and natural light
  • More rooms like the LibLab that are open and inviting
  • To be more sociable. Placement of study tables are awkward making it hard to find a spot

What qualities are unique to Swarthmore that should be reflected in its libraries?

  • Nature aspect of Swarthmore: incorporate it with more windows and larger windows
  • Swarthmore has a lot of different people with different study styles, and the libraries should give them the opportunity to have access to both collaborative and private spaces
  • Swarthmore is close knit – spaces should take being comfortable in a small community into account
  • Books – they give the building life
  • Seeing people work motivates – work spaces with visibility
  • The Library should try to reflect the rich academic history of Swarthmore, McCabe can showcase some interesting historical artifacts from Friends Library, or Special Collections