On the campus of the College of William and Mary, one of the most visited buildings on campus is the one and only Earl Gregg Swem Library. Inside the building’s four walls, there exists a smorgasbord of activities and items available, ranging from book rentals to work spaces to equipment rentals and more. Despite its plethora of offerings, however, Swem is often summarized in a single word by the students of the College: stress. Its presence as a place where people labor over major assignments, coupled with its chaotic overflow during midterms and finals, means that the library’s more relaxing and positive aspects can go overlooked. However, the Library Ambassadors, an organization that works to promote library services and events, is working to change that through not only public events, but also a close-knit community.
Ambassadors take on many activities ranging from bringing in therapy animals to giving out free Swem swag to passersby in hopes of fulfilling their overarching goal of creating a setting accessible and open to all students at the College.
“Our main focus is to have events around the library and surrounding library events that we could promote to students, that anyone can join, that anyone can come to,” club president Linna Cui ’24 said. “We really just want to create an environment where people can come from their classes or if they want to de-stress, they can do some fun activities that we have at our club.”
Cui emphasized that regardless of what time of the semester it is, the Library Ambassadors work to be a source of support for students at the College and turn Swem into a place of refuge and comfort.
“It’s kind of a space for people to forget about their studies for a little bit and to just do something that is genuinely fun for them,” Cui said. “We wanted to make the space that’s associated with so many stressful things and turn it into something that’s welcoming and relaxing for people.”
For many club members, the meetings and events have been such a positive experience for them that they often reach out to their wider social circles and try to get others to join in on the fun. For club member Elsa Hendrix ’25, the club has been the perfect outlet for strengthening bonds between friends looking for a common activity to embark on together.
“I think my second meeting I had just brought a friend I had made from class,” Hendrix said. “And it was just so wholesome, and it was a really great bonding experience because we got to be in this place that all of us really like.”
Club Vice President Stephenie Choi ’25 seconded this point, citing one particular Halloween-based event as a memorable experience for her and her friends.
“When I bring friends who haven’t been to our club meetings before and see them just really enjoy their time at the club meeting, it’s really special to me,” Choi said. “I remember one time it was a Halloween event that we had, and I invited a friend over, and we just painted pumpkins and that was really fun.”
For Choi, the community is one of the main highlights of the organization’s meetings and activities. Not only do members like Choi describe the kindness and closeness of the different members, but they also underscore the fact that the club attracts a variety of students representing different academic paths. This diversity in the club’s membership, often seen as a selling point for the group, can lead to experiences that members would not otherwise have had.
“I think the emphasis on community is really strong, especially because I see people in the meetings that I would never see outside of the meetings,” Choi said. “And it’s really a place where people with different interests and different majors come together and just enjoy their time there.”
Although ambassadors plan a slew of different projects in any given semester or year, they often have certain flagship events. More recently, the ambassadors focused their efforts on raising money for the library during the College’s One Tribe One Day. For the annual occasion, the organization’s executive board traditionally prepares a lineup of activities for patrons to enjoy, such as giving out free frozen treats and Swem-themed merchandise, in hopes of encouraging visitors to contribute to the library’s donation funds.
“We had a whole fundraiser outside on the patio and in the lobby, and we were basically promoting two of the library funds for One Tribe One Day. We were giving out tote bags and stickers and pins, and we were tabling outside, and we had Ben and Jerry’s on the patio,” Cui said. “That was one of our biggest events, us promoting the library at One Tribe One Day, and I think we raised like $120,000 or something in one day.”
For many members of the group, another highlight of Library Ambassadors is the potential on-campus job offerings it provides. As club members work closely with the library, members are often able to attain jobs at Swem, such as working at the front desk, and gain access to networking opportunities. Choi in particular recalled an instance in which she asked a faculty supervisor of the group for a job reference, which she ended up receiving due to the strong community of the club.
“I asked her for a reference, and she was super open and was like, ‘Yeah, of course, put me down as a reference,’” Choi said. “So I think that just speaks to how warm and friendly our environment is and how our club is really supportive of our members.”
Although career benefits are an added bonus of being a Library Ambassador, the core of the club is its strong community. The group works to relieve the challenges and stresses of life at the College, and, according to many members, it creates lifelong friendships along the way.
“It’s an open space. You can come and you would get free things, free anything, and a little bit of happiness in your day,” Cui said. “That’s the environment that we want to promote.”