The Bellatrix Library: Hidden Mount Holyoke Treasure

By Caroline Spivack on March 8, 2013
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Mount Holyoke students enjoying the Bellatrix Library

Whether you’re a senior or a freshman, a wealth of undiscovered features remains scattered across Mount Holyoke’s campus.  These treasures are often hidden in plain sight. Chances are you’ve visited Wilder on countless occasions but never felt the need to explore the basement; if you did however, you’d discover Mount Holyoke’s one of a kind Bellatrix Library.

Located on the south side of Wilder’s basement, the Bellatrix Library was created by none other than Bellatrix, an official Mount Holyoke org since the 1970s and the self-proclaimed science fiction, fantasy, anime and cool stuff org. Home to a vast array of books, graphic novels, science fiction anthologies, DVDs, VHS tapes, fabric patterns, art, and more; the Bellatrix Library is a science fiction junkies’ dream.  The Library functions almost as a resource archive, with an assortment of unique collectibles  including various out of print books, 1970s Star Trek fan-fiction, a series of science fiction anthologies as old as the 1940s and a collection of autographs from celebrities such as Jane Yolen, an esteemed author of folklore, fantasy and science fiction, and Gary Gygax, writer and game designer best known for co-creating the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

The library even has a series of books written by Mount Holyoke alums, including the prolific science fiction author Susan Shwartz ’72, who herself was a member of Bellatrix, and dedicated her wildly successful novel Vulcans Forge to Bellatrix.

Perhaps the library’s greatest feature, however, is that you don’t have to be a member of the club, or even a student to check out material. Bellatrix encourages all staff members to take advantage of the library. To take out an item, you simply have to supply a valid email address and sign the item out in the library’s ledger. The library operates largely under the honor code, though as with any library, after your due date expires you’ll be gently badgered via email until you return what was signed out.

The Bellatrix Library is maintained by five student elected librarians who manage the library and provide friendly assistance to all who find themselves at the library. Open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday evenings, students are free to peruse the Library’s collection, take out materials or even just cozy up on a cushion and read. The librarians have even compiled an online catalog so students can search for books ahead of time.

A few years ago, the library was stuffed into a closet in 1837, there it was a series of cardboard boxes filled with books. Now the Bellatrix Library occupies a large room in Wilder’s basement equip with book cases, arm chairs, and tons of storage space. Jillian Brown ’13, the head Bellatrix librarian, was uncertain of how the library first came to be but theorized that there was an unofficial library circulating among Bellatrix members that eventually grew to be the Bellatrix Library.

“I think the library is the most underutilized resource that Bellatrix has to offer,” said Brown. “I think a lot of people are weary of Bellatrix because they think, ‘oooh geeky club,’ but in reality, I think a lot of people would have much more fun at Bellatrix events, and here at the library, than they realize.”

Arguably, the most little known resource on Mount Holyoke’s campus, the Bellatrix Library is a historical treasure as well as a great destination for book lovers, science fiction junkies and simply anyone looking for an interesting read and good company. All Mount Holyoke students should take advantage of this hidden treasure.

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Caroline Spivack is an aspiring Human Rights Journalist, New York City native and a zombie obsessed horror fan. She enjoys the outdoors, photography and discovering new music.

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