BY CAROLINE MAO ’22
As Mount Holyoke College’s student organization Bellatrix approaches its 50th anniversary, they are near the completion of a project they’ve hoped to see succeed for decades: the relocation of their library. Bellatrix is a club dedicated to promoting science fiction, fantasy, anime, manga and comic books. It is the second oldest consistently-run student organization on campus and meets three times a week. The club also hosts events like movie nights and anime nights.
The Bellatrix library is currently creating a digitized catalog of its materials, available on its official website and through LibraryThing under the profile “The_Hoard_MHC” as it relocates its library from the basement of Wilder to Abbey 118.
Bellatrix’s president, Haley Rivers ’19, reported cataloging 3,655 books so far, and estimates a total number somewhere between five and six thousand. The library has been affectionately named “The Hoard” because the new library also merges with collections from Bellatrix’s sister organizations, Renegades and Autosave, orgs dedicated to tabletop games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, and video games respectively.
The vice president of Bellatrix, Healy Miller ’19, said that the library has “everything you can imagine,” from well-known series like “Harry Potter” to “test copies of books, dime store pulpy science fiction novels and other crazy stuff you’ve never heard of.” The club relies largely on alumni donation, receiving about 150 books a year.
In the past, Bellatrix has struggled to find a suitable library location. They dealt with problems like insufficient space to house their materials and excessive dust and mold that damaged books and the members’ health. Rivers, who checked on the Wilder library last year during her summer job, was alarmed by the amount of mold and immediately contacted Mount Holyoke authorities. She learned that “if we left the books for two more weeks, it would have been a total loss.”
“We celebrated when [the library was declared] a fire hazard,” joked co-president Robin Pegau ’19, “That’s how bad it was.”
Miller, Rivers and Pegau also described the challenges they faced in dealing with Student Programs’ suggestion that they destroy their materials or donate them somewhere else, both violations of the organization’s constitution.
Residential Life finally granted Bellatrix Abbey 118, a former dining space which has been vacant for the last 10 to 20 years. The board members are excited about the spacious location and new amenities, such as outlets, a laptop, a TV with a VHS player, a cat-shaped scanner that checks out books and a window seat
Miller, who couldn’t spend any more time in the dusty Wilder location because of her asthma, explained that the new Abbey room is “a really fantastic space. We’re so lucky to get it.” Pointing out the Bellatrix library’s massive size, Miller called the ability to keep the library going a “real testament to how much Bellatrix has been loved by both its board and the student body.” Noting Mount Holyoke’s “huge amount of stress culture,” Miller emphasized the importance of a fun and relaxed space to bring people together and build community.
Rivers also said that when Bellatrix was originally founded in 1970, it was unpopular for women to be interested in science fiction and fantasy. “[There are] still a lot of people who are holding out for that boys’ club mentality,” Pegau added. Rivers describes Bellatrix as “a middle finger to white men” who dominate the genres. It’s an inclusive space for people who don’t identify as men to explore their interests in media from which they have often been excluded.
Rivers estimates the cataloging will be completed in two to three weeks. The Bellatrix library will be open on Saturdays at any time, and the College community is welcome to explore and peruse its materials. Cataloging events will be held from 3-6 p.m. in the Abbey common room on Saturdays. They are open to everyone until cataloging is complete. Those who help catalog the library will also be entered in a raffle to win books and gift cards from Thirsty Mind.