Students who frequent Hatch Science Library, whether they’re staffing the circulation desk or powering through a lab report, are probably familiar with Science Library Assistant Jeff Cook.
Now in his eighth year working at Bowdoin, Cook oversees many of the day-to-day operations of the library and is responsible for hiring, training and scheduling a staff of 20 to 25 students every semester.
Outside the library, Cook devotes a great deal of time to music. He plays drums and guitar for various bands in the area and has a small recording studio at his house that he claims to utilize often.
“What I’m listening to right now would be late ’60s, early ’70s proto metal stuff. [Music] that a lot of people haven’t necessarily heard of...sludge metal, doom metal. I love that stuff.”
One of his bands, Danger I Reckon!, has played dozens of shows in the Portland area. They found out recently that one of their songs will be featured in “Sticky Wicket,” a 77-minute film based on Eveningstar Cinema's recent battle for funding.
Cook is always looking for ways to be engaged with music.
In February, Cook participated in the 48-hour music festival in Portland, Maine.
“It was an amazing opportunity. They select about 30 musicians each year who have never played with each other in any form. You get together on a Thursday night in Portland and we draw names from a hat until six bands are created,” Cook said. “You have 48 hours to create a 25-minute set of original music. At the end, you play your new set of music in front of a packed house.”
Members of the band that he formed, Familiar Ritual, stayed together after the festival to record their music and perform live.
“The stuff I’ve been associated with in the past for different bands has been everything from punk rock music to avant-garde music, industrial metal to traditional Americana folk and blues,” Cook said.
Cook, who lives in Brunswick with his wife and two-year-old son, became familiar with Bowdoin many years before working here. He was raised by his grandparents in Litchfield, Maine, which is about a 30-minute drive inland from Brunswick.
“It was a very rural, ’70s Maine kind of existence. I lived on a dirt road. It was what you’d expect from the background of a Stephen King movie.”
Cook earned a degree in economics from the University of Maine while working as a library assistant and student supervisor for Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC). He came to Bowdoin after noticing the library assistant position in the local paper during his senior year.
“I knew, after living up in the Bangor area for the better part of five or six years, that I wanted to move back down to this area. It’s where my family is,” Cook said. “It’s where I felt comfortable.”
During his junior year of high school, Cook went on a field trip to the Hawthorne-Longfellow library with his English class so they could conduct research for a large writing assignment.
“This was in the late ’80s, so we would do research with the card catalog and all that stuff, trying to find some resource items for our papers,” Cook said. “The main thing I remember from that experience is getting up into the Hubbard stacks where the floors are that frosted glass. I can remember that if people were walking above you, you could see their shoe prints very distinctly through the ceiling above you.”
Even though he had heard of Bowdoin as a kid, Cook said that the campus felt unfamiliar at first.
“Going to Bowdoin that first time, it was kind of overwhelming. It was so formal it seemed like. Ivy on the walls, stuff like that. I certainly wasn’t exposed to that as a kid.”
Cook said his favorite part about being at Bowdoin is working with the students, which carries over from his job at EMCC that frequently involved working with students.
“It’s really cool to be at an undergraduate college where the students that I’m supervising and working with on a daily basis talk to me about the stuff they’re working on. They’re working on stuff that, when I was at UMO [the University of Maine], is what you would expect graduate level students to be doing,” Cook said. “Bowdoin is that type of experience where it’s accelerated and elevated in terms of professors and their expectations.”
Cook is always interested to hear where students come from. He said that the geographic diversity of the student body at Bowdoin has always impressed him.
“That somebody from the other side of the world has found out about Bowdoin and was intrigued enough to pursue it and ended up here, I think that’s pretty fascinating,” said Cook. “It gives me a lot of perspective about how important Bowdoin is not just on a local scale. It’s important on a global basis. It’s far-reaching. Until I worked here, I didn’t really think out it that way.”
Correction, November 22th at 10 a.m.: An original version of this article stated that Eveningstar Cinema owner Barry Norman had directed "Sticky Wicket;" this is inaccurate, but the film is based on the Cinema's funding difficulties.