term papers
You know the feeling. Near semester’s end,
turmoil begins. Months of putting day-to-day
homework assignments ahead of working on
your thesis inevitably result in a crunch. A sink-
ing feeling sets in as you ponder the significance
of your procrastination. One final paper now
will count for more of your grade than all the
short-term assignments combined!
Collins vs. home
Early in my experience at Puget Sound I spent
a lot of time at Collins Memorial Library.
Studying there was definitely more productive
than studying at home. At home it was easy to
think of things
that really need to be done right
, like preparing a snack to help me focus
or answering every phone call (no voicemail in
those days) or doing the laundry or watering the
poor, wilting plants in the windowsill.
But at Collins, surrounded by books and
friendly staff willing to help, distractions were
fewer. I had favorite places to camp out, depend-
ing on the time of day, the preference to social-
ize, or the need to concentrate. The mezzanine
was a favorite destination, as I could hear the
busy buzz of students coming and going. I used
the personal study rooms whenever they were
available for the ultimate in isolation; also not
bad for taking a nap. Sleep was in short supply
during big-paper crunch time, so I often dozed
in those deeply upholstered chairs. Study carrels
on the first and second floors provided privacy
but also made it possible to observe others who
were similarly stressed—a kind of silent (shhh,
it’s the library) comradery.
Research, then and now
Cramming made me wish that I could reverse
time. I dove in and scrambled to research, syn-
thesize, analyze, and distill enough information
in two weeks to deliver a quality paper and
salvage my grade. Late nights at Collins became
routine. Research was labor intensive. Main tools
were paper and microfiche. I used the subject
indexes to research my topic, going through
them year by year, taking notes along the way.
There was the
New York Times
index in the big
maroon books, and large, green volumes held
Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature
. I’d
write down the citation information as I went
along. Then it was time to check the monstrous
card catalog, which took up most of the main
hallway on the first floor. This would tell me if
the library had the journal I needed. If so, then
I would go to the stacks, pull the volume, find
the article, read it and take notes, or take it to a
To check out books, a staff member would
ink-stamp a paper pocket affixed to the book to
record the due date and then file a correspond-
ing card behind the circulation desk to keep
track of who checked out what. In the media
section, I could find cassette and
slides, and filmstrips. Later,
Collins today
I envy that students today have access to thou-
sands of online journals and electronic data-
bases. They can locate information quickly with
Web search engines, then print what they find
or even have the data delivered to their mobile
devices. You still hear students’ fingers franti-
cally tapping, but PC workstations have replaced
typewriters. Of course, books remain valuable
and, thankfully, are less prone to electronic mis-
haps. Nowadays, to check out books, students
simply swipe their Puget Sound ID cards, and
bar codes track the checked-out items.
Life lessons
A couple of semesters of term-paper turmoil
took their toll. During my sophomore year I
finally learned how to balance daily work with
daily term-paper research. A politics and gov-
ernment assignment required that we track a
current political issue for a full semester and
document milestones along the way. I realized
then that such an assignment would not lend it-
self to last-minute heroics. I visited Collins every
day that semester to record current events, and
I worked on assignments for other classes, too,
while I was there. By the semester’s end I had de-
veloped effective study habits.
I have gained a deep appreciation for the
skills I learned from writing term papers: plan-
ning, researching, prioritizing, and managing
time. Now, in my professional life, project plans,
business proposals, reports, website feature
stories, and company communications have be-
come my “term papers.”
Pam Taylor is a capital giving assistant in the
Puget Sound Office of University Relations. If her
maiden name, Holt, sounds familiar, it should.
Her mom, Arlene Holt, has been a cashier in the
SUB for 37 years.
Pam encourages Puget Sound alumni to visit
Collins Memorial Library’s “125 Years in the
Stacks,” for which library staff have selected from
the Collins collection one book for each of the col-
lege’s 125 years. It’s really fun to browse through:
in Collins
by Pam Holt Taylor ’86
Previous pages: The illustration is by
Bateman ’11
, who says she’s been drawing
her whole life but discovered a passion for telling
stories with pictures while studying creative
writing at Puget Sound. Hallie lives in Oakland,
Calif., and is the illustrator and art director for
, a technology news blog. She also
is art director for
The Bygone Bureau,
an online
journal edited by Kevin Nguyen ’09 and Nick
Martens ’09. You can see more of her work at
At the end of the autumn semester the author returns to her favorite second-floor study hideout and
is relieved to find that some things, at least, are slow to change: The carrels are fully occupied.