Eton College Reads

Walking down Seymour Street past the display window of the Satellite Gallery, passers-by will encounter an arresting art installation. Below a construction of a large stack of books, are these compelling lyrics from Handsome Devil by the Smiths:

There’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more.
Oh, there’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more, not much more.

This is certainly a concept that the Eton College culture has fully embraced.

Eton College reads!

By July, 2010, when Eton received its EQA designation, the college had fully committed itself to the concept of providing a combined academic and career-training environment. To help meet this commitment, the management set aside a space during its campus expansion for a library, ensuring that students, staff and faculty had access to adequate and organized reading material for study and enjoyment. By August, after shelving, an electronic library system, and a generous boardroom table were installed, the first 3-400 books were acquired and catalogued into the library. It has certainly grown. Today, there are now nearly 1500 items in the library catalogue, mainly books with a few videos and DVDs, as well as desks and computers to provide students with a self-study language learning lab. For quicker reads, one section of the shelving is devoted to a range of periodicals and pamphlets, particularly magazines related to business and the tourism industry.

The college library collection is a bit quirky with its own unique personality, reflecting the interests and needs of its readers. There is a fairly good range of reference books: dictionaries (both general and specialized) as well as grammar and writing style manuals, and atlases snuggling up to a selection of government policy guidelines and tourist board publications. In the literature section, patrons can find a fairly good selection of the classics in literature and philosophy, drama and poetry, but these are interspersed with lighter fiction ranging from Harry Potter books to a couple of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café books.

Of the nonfiction books, about half deal directly with subjects dealt studied in Eton’s programs: tourism, hospitality, airlines, and business administration, as well as career development and job search strategies. The other half covers a very wide selection of subjects from culture and self-development to history and environmental issues.

In many ways, the eclectic nature of the library collection is a consequence of how these books were acquired. Many of them were purchased on the recommendation of college staff who had read a book or a review of a book they thought would be valuable to others in our community. Some were selected to complement an event like the Japan Week, Disney Day or Eton’s Tenth Anniversary celebration theme.

In many cases, we didn’t find these books at all, but rather, they found us. Some of our most fascinating reads were contributed to the library by supporters of the college who were pleased to find a good home for a book or thirty, so these old friends could continue to provide knowledge or pleasure (or often both). Others are books staff member stumbled upon in a thrift shop or at a yard sale that seemed perfect for our needs. They just followed us home.

In many ways, the library has become the heart of Eton College. Most days, it is occupied by teams working on group projects, or students studying, or writing an assignment. And, usually, there is also the wonderful sight of students browsing through the titles for something that will open the world farther for them or keep them company on a quiet snowy evening. These fortunate individuals are our students or our staff members who have made the discovery that:

There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more, not much more.”

Written by

Lynn Galloway

Academic Support – Eton College