A Freshman’s Perspective on Interim Study Spaces

For as long as I’ve been thinking about going to college, I’ve been thinking about the library. Whether it’s because growing up with Harry Potter led me to believe that the most complicated problems could be solved by a trip there, or because the image that came to mind when I pictured college as a kid was always one of spending hours studying among the stacks, throughout my college search in high school I found myself paying special attention to each campus’ offering in this area.

That being said, it may be surprising that I ended up here as a member of the class of 2022, the only class currently at Kenyon that has never, and will never, use Olin-Chalmers Library. The most I personally ever saw of the inside of Olin was the brief glimpse I caught while on a tour of campus last spring, as my guide said, essentially, “so here’s our library, you might not want to get too attached to it, though.”

Obviously, Kenyon’s current library situation has forced me to explore some other study-space options. Being only a few weeks in, here’s my take on some of the spots I’ve tried so far. As well as the reason why I still came to Kenyon, despite knowing I would face this challenge.

 

The Interim Library Buildings

Whatever you decide to call these temporary library spaces (Mods? Pods? Boxes? I’ve heard a few different names), they’re going to be here for a while, so you might as well try them out. Personally, I’m partial to Mod B, which has it all: computers, tables, outlets (that work depending on which table you choose), printers, and even a few shelves of actual, physical books to remind you of what libraries were originally intended for!

However, of course, being what they are, the mods can’t support an unlimited number of students at a time. As the semester goes on I’ve noticed these spaces getting more crowded, earlier in the day or night. Also, even though I’ve only ever seen campus without the mods once, I still feel like on principle, I can’t fully support them given where they leave us aesthetically.

 

 

Third Floor Ascension (Nu Pi Kappa Room)

The third floor of Ascension Hall has a certain significance for me; I’ve been hearing about it since before I was even accepted to Kenyon, when the alumna who interviewed me recommended I check it out. Since I’ve arrived here it’s lived up to my expectations and has become one of my favorite places on campus. When I can actually make it up there, that is.

The embarrassing extent to which I get completely out of breath after climbing three stories, coupled with the fact that the smallest noises (including the sound of me desperately trying to breathe) are amplified in Ascension, often means that I need to be in the exact right state of mind before I tackle the trip up to the third floor. However, when I am able to motivate myself to make the climb, I’ve found Ascension’s third floor to be a great place to study. It’s a designated quiet area, which makes it good for when you need to focus, and the main room is pretty gorgeous, which itself can be motivating.

 

 

The BFEC

If any First-Years (or others) haven’t been to the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) yet, I’d highly recommend it. Some of my more adventurous friends finally forced me to take a trip down there recently, and I didn’t regret it. While not a traditional study space, in my opinion the BFEC provides a near-idyllic setting for when you need to spend a relaxing Sunday catching up on some reading, or for when you just need some clarity. Of course, the viability of this spot is dependent on the weather, so as it gets colder, it will probably be an option less and less frequently. My advice, then, is to take advantage of the setting while you still can!

 

Gund Commons

I have a love–hate relationship with Gund Commons. On one hand, it’s big, always comfortably air-conditioned, and is conveniently located for those who live North. One the other hand, there’s a ping-pong table and TV upstairs, making it more of a social destination than, say, Ascension. When I’m studying here, I can usually count on more than a few friends passing through and leaving me sufficiently distracted. So far, Gund Commons has been the place I head to when I say I’m going to get work done, but it’s not super crucial that I actually do. Or, where I go when it’s 11:30 by the time I’ve finally motivated myself to study and I’m too lazy to walk South.

 

 

On Losing the Library and Why I Chose Kenyon Anyway

All in all, I haven’t found the “perfect” spot to study on campus yet. What I have found is a number of different spaces that have their pros and cons, and each work for me depending on my mood or situation. That said, I have thought about whether my life would be easier if I did have one central location in which to study.

Which brings us to the key question, the one I’ve been asked by friends, family, and confused Kenyon seniors alike: “why would you choose to come to a campus without an actual library?”

The answer is sappy, but true: I knew I wouldn’t have a library for a few years, and I didn’t care. Kenyon pulled me in from the moment I began researching it as a senior in high school. By the time I visited campus in February 2018, I wanted to come so badly that had I been told they planned to tear down the dining hall, my decision would have been the same. Maybe it was naive to become so quickly enchanted with this place, but the fact remains that I didn’t choose Kenyon for any singular reason, and that includes the library, or lack thereof.

I understand that the situation isn’t ideal, but in many ways it mirrors my freshman year so far: not perfect, sometimes frustrating, and often difficult, but something I wouldn’t want to experience anywhere but here. I’m sure that over the next few weeks, months, and years I’ll form new opinions on the situation and maybe even find some new places to study. But for now, at least I get a calf workout everytime I study in Ascension.

Image Credits: Feature, 1, Zoe Packel