Last Friday night, on April 20, crowds of students spoke at full volume on the third floor of Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library. They danced, ate a seemingly endless supply of cupcakes provided by the library and doodled on the first-floor walls for the first and last time. Over the entrance to the Current Periodicals section, a student had written “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER.”
The “Farewell to Olin” party, hosted by the Library and Information Services, began with handfuls of students sprinkled around the corners of the library, playing board games and tossing “flying discs,” as the librarians encouraged students to call them to avoid a lawsuit from the Wham-O toy company, who has a trademark on the name. Many of the students had been studying, and didn’t notice that the library had closed. The dance floor, in the Olin atrium, was empty, except for two librarians who were dancing their hearts out to “Shout,” by Tears for Fears. One of the flying disc tossers, Yoshio Wagner ’21, lamented the shutting down of the library. “I basically live here,” he said, cupcake in hand. When asked if he would spend as much time in the modular units, he said it would depend on if they had air conditioning.
“We’re feeling bittersweet about it,” Amy Badertscher, associate vice president of Library and Information Services and the event planner, said about Olin’s demolition, “so we’re giving students the opportunity to write on the walls and say what they loved about the library before it shuts down.” Farewells to the library were written on the walls in eight foreign languages, including Russian and Arabic. Some of the messages were sentimental, some resentful. “I hate this classroom,” a student had written on the windowsill of the Languages Learning Center. “Six classes in here, and I’m a sophomore.”
“My name is Emily,” read a message written in a secluded corner. “Thank you for coming this way.”
While the demolition of Olin is shocking to many on campus, Vice President for Library and Information Services Ron Griggs, who was in charge of guarding the Periodicals for the night, assured students that this was not the first time Kenyon had been without a library. The collection moved from Ransom Hall to Chalmers in the 60s, and the College added Olin onto Chalmers two decades later. “We’re no strangers to this,” Griggs said, “but we’re sad to see it go.” While examining the graffiti, a student suggested to Griggs that they break the wall into pieces during demolition, and hand them out for students to keep, “like the Berlin Wall.”
“This is so weird,” Maddie Farr ’18 said, walking out of the library accompanied by blaring disco, “this is so weird. I love it.” By midnight there was one student on the third floor who sat and stayed completely silent, trying to finish a paper.
“If a student came in here crying about the library coming down, I’d cry with them,” Badertscher said. “I do believe, however, that we have a pretty good plan — hopefully, people will find a new home in the modular units. Or at least a comfy chair.”