For the next couple years, campus may feel unfamiliar for Kenyon students. It will be the first time since the Gordon Keith Chalmers Library was completed in 1962 that the College will not have a main library building.
With demolition of the Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library expected to begin in October to create space for the Kenyon Commons Library project, the College installed four new modular unit late in the 2018 spring semester in order to replace Olin and Chalmers. Three of them, Library Buildings A, B and C, were placed on Ransom Lawn. The fourth modular unit was installed between Norton Residence Hall and Watson Residence Hall.
While the modular units will fulfill some of the functions of Olin and Chalmers, they will not fully replicate the role that the library filled as a study space. According to Ronald Griggs, the vice president for library and information services, the College will have the same number of ‘study seats’ that it had prior to the closure of Olin and Chalmers once the construction of the study spaces in the village are complete before the spring semester. Currently, the College is about 100 seats short of matching that total. According to Griggs, study spaces usually do not crowd up until late in the semester, so the current shortage likely will not matter.
According to the description of the Kenyon Commons Library Project on the Kenyon website, nearly 1,700 people would go into Olin and Chalmers on an average day during the 2016 fall semester. In order to create additional study space, the College moved extra chairs and tables into Ascension Hall.
Sixty-eight new seats were put into Philomathesian and 37 into Nu Pi Kappa, the central rooms in Ascension. Thirty-five were added into Gund Commons, and the Gund Residence Hall Lounge was transformed into a study space with 36 new seats available to anyone.
Grant Carr ’19 believes that the modular units are too small to fill the role of the library in providing study spaces. “I think we’ll see a rush to get seats in Peirce and Ascension, as well as Wiggins [Wiggin Street Coffee],” Carr said. After frequently using the library as a study space in his previous years on campus, Carr finds that the modular units are not nearly as desirable of a location to get work done.
Carr, a math major, also believes that some majors will be impacted more by the lack of a library than others. According to Carr, math majors have spaces in the Science Quad reserved only for them. Not every major comes with these private spaces.
Director of Student Accessibility and Support Services Erin Salva believes that the next two years will be a great chance for students to find new, previously unused study spaces.
“The Cottages are a great place for students to study,” Salva said. “Sam Mather also has great breakout rooms, rooms that are like study carrels for two people. There are plenty of study spaces all over campus that people might not be familiar with.”
Study spaces with limited hours in the past will now be more flexible with time. Thomas Hall will now stay open past 9 p.m. to accommodate students who study there after the dining hall closes according to Griggs. Additionally, the modular unit north of Norton Hall will open at 6 a.m. in order to provide a study space for early risers.
Salva also thinks shuttling into Mount Vernon to study at the Wright Center or the Mount Vernon library would make sense for students.
“Utilizing downtown Mount Vernon could be helpful — there are a lot of really cool places there. I think the area is incredible and it isn’t that hard to get to,” Salva said.