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(Book)Worms and (Social) Butterflies: An Olin Exposé

Welcome to Olin library: Kenyon’s own high school cafeteria scene. 

The college brochures will tell you that Middle Path is Kenyon’s "main artery" or "spine," but let’s face it: Peirce and Olin are the social hubs of Kenyon. If you’re able to successfully navigate these two pivotal locations without fail, you surely deserve a degree of some sort.

Just as we all have a preferred side of Peirce, every student undoubtedly has a go-to location in the lib from which he or she only strays in desperate times (such as finals week, when people literally end up sitting on the floor due to lack of space). So here you have it: a guide to the ins and outs of the Olin social (oops, I mean strictly scholastic) scene.

2nd floor communal: There’s not even a semblance of a quiet zone here. If you’re here past 5pm you shouldn’t plan on getting any work done. Second floor communal is a social butterfly’s haven. I once witnessed a group of people surfing across the floor on their notebooks for a solid twenty minutes (who knew this could remain entertaining for so long)? Good for finding out the DFMOS at last weekend’s Old Kenyon party, not so good for finishing up that twelve page English paper that’s due tomorrow morning.

3rd floor communal: This one’s a Jekyll and Hyde. By day, the third floor communal tables are a quiet, bright, and comfortable atmosphere, where you can complete assignments in the company of random fellow students instead of a jail cell (see: cubicle). By night, however, people somehow think it’s okay to turn the scene into what some dearly refer to as “Club Olin”—and that’s literally what it is. Post 8 pm, people carry out long phone conversations at normal volume and play YouTube videos without headphones. This leads to a lot of passive aggressive “shhhh”-ing from the diligent students who have been there since 3 pm and made the mistake of not moving.

Group study rooms: For teams, tight-knit clubs, or people whose friend groups are too large to fit comfortably at any other table setting. Creates an air of exclusivity. I actually have never been in one of these rooms but I’ve peeked in through the tiny windows and they look like the equivalent of the Great Hall Mean Girls table. I can’t imagine much work gets done in the company of your twelve closest friends, but hey: someone prove me wrong.

The atrium: Good for group study sessions, projects, and other times when you have to be exceptionally louder than is acceptable within the actual library. People from 2nd and 3rd floor communal tables should take note. I wouldn’t actually count working here as “coming to the library,” no matter how much you may try to convince yourself that it is. 

Cubicles: If you’re working in a cubicle, you’re either: crunching to meet a deadline; have had enough of that adorable couple holding hands and making googly eyes at each other over the communal tables; or enjoy reading the inscriptions in the wood during your study breaks (if you haven’t taken the time to read some of these you should...most are nonsensical but some are actually quite insightful). Chances are you’re super studious and dedicated to your work. Or it’s finals week, in which case you should guard that cubicle with your life because you probably had to camp out in front of the library doors 30 minutes prior to opening to secure your spot.

Couches overlooking atrium: These are prime people-watching seats. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re getting any work done a) without a desk b) in the company of your friends c) reclined in a comfy armchair and d) sitting next to huge windows that allow you to see everyone entering and exiting the library. Great for a Saturday where you’d like to feel good about yourself for going to the library, but are too hungover to do anything more than watch other people who are also pretending to do work.

Those who avoid the library all together and seek out other, quieter spaces to study, such as Ascension or the science quad: Some might call them social pariahs; others admire their dedication to their craft. I’d warn against straying from Olin too often, especially on your own. You might find yourself feeling cut off from the Kenyon world and out of the loop—at a school so small, you can’t afford to be the only one who didn’t see that guy trip over his shoelace when he was going to the printer last Thursday night.  That’s sure to be breaking news for at least the next four days.

Ally Bruschi is a senior political science major at Kenyon College. She spent this past summer interning as a writer with both The Daily Meal, a digital media group  dedicated to "all things food and drink" and The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that partners with U.S. policymakers to alleviate global poverty. Before entering the "real world" of jobs, however, Ally spent many summers as a counselor at an all-girls summer camp in Vermont, aka the most wonderful place on earth. A good book, a jar of peanut butter, a well-crafted Spotify playlist, and a lazy dog could get her through even the worst of days.
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