There are some rivalries that just can’t be reconciled. Sparta and Troy. Ohio State and Michigan. The Red Sox and the Yankees. I’ve never had much of a stake in any of those. The only rivalry I’ve ever felt passionate about is the one between the Bowdoin libraries, and for me, Hawthorne-Longfellow (H-L) will always come out on top.

I can only vaguely recall the first time I stepped inside. It was a cool day in June and a dark-haired sophomore in jeans and flip flops rattled off a series of facts I did not care about. (Over one million volumes! Named for members of the Class of 1825! $60 in free printing each semester! Inter-Library Loans!)

It wasn’t—by a long shot—the most impressive of the libraries I’d seen on a college tour. It isn’t considered the most impressive of our campus buildings. 

Patricia McGraw Anderson agrees. In her book, “The Architecture of Bowdoin College,” she writes, “The new library is neither a monumental building nor a competitive one.” Monumental and competitive are adjectives that accurately describe Hubbard Hall—Bowdoin’s library until H-L was completed in 1965.

Named for two of Bowdoin’s most prominent alumni, H-L was built over a period of two years and was designed by Steinman, Cain and White, the later incarnation of the same architecture firm that built Cleaveland Hall, Moulton Union and Gibson Hall. In 1982, the building was expanded to include, among other things, the underground passageway that connects H-L to the Hubbard stacks.

It is undoubtedly where I’ve spent the most time on campus over my four years. My dad warned me at the beginning of my college search that this would be the case, but I waved him off. The casual keg-side conversations I yearned for would not be found in a library.

I wish I could tell you that most of this time was spent completing assignments for my courses, but alas, I did not do all of the readings for my classes. (Except, of course, for the ones I’m taking this semester. Hi Professors!) Sure, I liked my courses and have great memories of them, but the time in H-L I treasure most wasn’t spent reading the Federalist Papers.

Instead, I explored old interests and cultivated new ones. Books came to Bowdoin from places like Presque Isle, Maine and Williamstown, Mass. and I devoured them over long breakfasts in Moulton. Those that had sat on shelves collecting dust came alive after I took them out of the library for the first time. I watched the raised seal on page 55 of every book the College owns morph as the years went on.

On the fourth and fifth floors of the stacks, I read the monologues of Spaulding Gray, the dramas of Eugene O’Neill and the short stories of Ann Beattie. I uncovered the history of ballet and the life of one of its greatest stars, Anna Pavlova, who would have rather died an early death than never be able to dance again.

When I should have been outlining papers, I snuck down to the basement to read old issues of Life  and Time dating from the World Wars to the Kennedy assassinations. They taught me that “infographic” is just a new word for something their editors had mastered almost a century ago. As the years go on, type faces change and advertisements’ taglines dwindle from six paragraphs to six words.

I attempted deconstructions of the best newspaper and magazine writing with the vain hope that something would stick in my own writing. I fell in love with profiles of people famous and obscure, from John Wayne to Zell Kravinzky, the latter who donated a kidney and $45 million to those less fortunate than him.

I spent more time than anyone I know in the Special Collections reading room where you’re not allowed to have a pen. After a four-day search, I discovered that the marble statue in the landing of Hubbard is Ophelia, sculpted by Pasquale Romanelli and donated by Henry J. Furber of the Class of 1889.

When I was sure Bowdoin had made a mistake by granting me admission, the only thing that could turn my day around was looking out onto the Quad from couches by the third floor windows early on a Saturday morning and watching dogs play fetch and kids climb on the lions outside the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Libraries are time capsules that remain open for everyone and that’s especially true of H-L. Even its name harkens us back. And yes, the past wasn’t always an excellent one—the building was built at a time where its doors would have been closed to me.

Having time in the middle of the day to randomly wander into the stacks and spend an hour reading is one of the things I will miss most about Bowdoin. It’s the kind of thing that reinvigorates me in a way I’d never anticipated.

In the October 8, 1965 issue of the Orient, an anonymous student wrote a  letter to the editor, lambasting the new library as a “good place to take your date, rather than a good place to study.”

The author hoped that change would come soon. He wrote, “In sixty years, the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library will be outgrown and Bowdoin can look forward to another, marvelously improved, designed-with-the-student-in-mind library.”

The next ten years could bring a new library to campus, but I could not imagine one that could have served me better.