How Earl broke my heart


Avi Joshi ’26 is hoping to double major in English and Philosophy. Besides writing for The Flat Hat, Avi is in Metal Club as well as an active member of Phi Mu Alpha. He plays the drums and knows how to cook like pretty much anything.  Email Avi at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

Alright everyone, it’s time to talk about something. It’s gonna be hard and most people won’t want to face the facts. So grab your rootbeer, grab your popcorn, grab your stromboli and just listen: Earl Gregg Swem Library is the worst study spot at the College of William and Mary. 

Before I unpack this issue it might be worthwhile to note that the workers at Swem are incredible people. And the resources are wonderful: everything from the Writing Resources Center to Special Collections. In that aspect, Swem knocks it out of the park. It is also pretty central to most everyone on campus and Swemromas always hits the spot. And as a freshman, Swem offers a place of comfort because we are not too familiar with the campus in the first few weeks so the library is a good place to first start off studying. 

However, as I started working more in the library, I started to realize some of the problems with it. For one, the temperature is never really correct. What I mean is that the first floor remains at a good temperature while the second and third floors have the thermostat turned way the heck up. It’s sweltering up there. The basement can also get pretty stuffy and the lack of windows can often feel like being trapped in an orange box. 

You might ask, “So then why don’t you stay on the first floor?” Well yeah, I could do that but the first floor remains — as first floors tend to be — the busiest and most crowded floor. This floor is not really the library part of Swem. Rather, it serves as a place to get really good coffee and grab a table with your friends in which you will not actually get any work done (the same thing occurring with group study rooms — which are also boiling hot). 

Another thing that I don’t think a lot of people realize is that it is actually pretty easy to get lost in Swem. The floors are huge and a lack of signs can make things extremely confusing. Depending on what set of stairs you decide to take can lead you to completely different parts of a floor. Some study rooms are tucked away in the very back corners and it can take a while to find a room that your friends reserved (and by the time you get to that room there are already people there, so you have to awkwardly ask them to leave and they scramble to grab everything in the most inefficient and dangerous way in order to kill the awkwardness). 

That’s another thing: reservations are so competitive. If you want one of the study rooms during the weekday, you better book those babies three to four days prior to the day you went to study. I think this is not very realistic as most students don’t really plan to study; it just sort of happens — with drudgery and reluctance and TikTok. 

These problems lead me to my most irrational point: Swem has bad vibes. What I mean is that after a while, working in Swem can often feel like sitting in a prison. The walls are the color of boring, all the furniture feels like it has a layer of dust constantly on them, and trying to read Locke’s totally riveting ideas can become so monotonous — not just because it is Locke but also because Swem slows down how fast I can get work done but doesn’t actually slow down time in general. So hours of work can still feel wasted. 

What’s the solution? Well one is to stop complaining and just accept the flaws of Swem. Or we can look elsewhere. The first thing that comes to mind are the seven academic buildings that surround Sunken Gardens. I have to admit I do not have any experience with the Sir Christopher Wren Building, Washington Hall and Ewell Hall(one of the worst buildings on campus if I am being completely honest). 

McGlothlin-Street Hall has a few good rooms as well as a really nice seminar room in the basement. I haven’t gone there too much but the times I’ve been it was a good experience. Now the side that has James Blair Hall, Chancellors Hall, and Tucker Hall is the best. James Blair and Chancellors are beautiful and have great places to study. The downside is that they are very popular buildings for club meetings. I stand by Tucker being the best building on campus. It is beautifully designed and has nice big rooms to work in. I also think that these buildings beat out the third floor of Swem in terms of how quiet you want your study spot to be. On the third floor Swem there are still people coughing, taking things out of their bags or walking while wearing very squeaky Vans. 

The Integrated Science Folder, despite being a maze to your humble humanities major, has some great nooks and classrooms to work in. Lodge One is usually very busy but at night it is definitely more chill to sit and work in. But the all time best study spot is not a building; no it definitely isn’t your room and it isn’t Sunken Garden. When the weather permits, Colonial Williamsburg stands as the best study spot. 

Colonial Williamsburg has the perfect atmosphere: there are not too many people out but just enough, someone is usually playing music off in the background, and free Wifi from illy makes it easy to work there. I recommend that when it is nice out, you go to CW to do work. The atmosphere is seriously perfect and going with friends makes it ten times better. 

Look, Swem is not awful. I just think there are much better options on campus that allow for a better working atmosphere. Swem still deserves love and I don’t want it to be demolished or anything. Swem just broke my heart, that’s all.


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