For a school consistently ranked as having one of America’s “prettiest college campuses,” Kenyon’s trustees sure are self-conscious. When the campus Master Plan was unveiled in 2014, students were notified of the eventual destruction of Olin and Chalmers Library. The Board of Trustees met last week and discussed various topics with the Student Council; the plans for the library was not one of them. The uncertainty surrounding the future of the new library raises many questions, and we deserve answers as they arise.
In Feb. 2015 the Building and Grounds Committee emailed a survey via Student-Info to determine which aspect of the Master Plan students consider the biggest priority. The survey received 583 responses out of 1,700 students and indicated most students would prefer to see a new library on campus before other renovations. Since less than half of the student body participated in this survey, the sample size is unreliable. In addition, the survey portrayed the prospect of a new library as an abstract concept, failing to include any timelines for construction and plans for a temporary library.
I know a new library is inevitable. I don’t know that a new library is our top priority. Let’s not forget that Olin is our only library. Once it’s torn down, the campus will feel the absence of a major study space. The library is so much more than its book stacks; it’s the Helpline desk, a meeting spot for group projects and home to one of few quiet study spaces on campus.
If it were up to me, other projects would take precedent over building a more aesthetically pleasing library. These improvements would have greater impact on student life, such as rebuilding the New Apartments and improving accessibility in Ascension Hall.
Objectively speaking, Olin is not the most attractive building on the Hill. Olin lacks the grandeur of Old Kenyon, the modern design of Peirce’s Thomas Hall (New Side) and the spiffiness of the Kenyon Athletic Center, but it is one of the most widely used buildings on campus. Is it possible that Kenyon students don’t care much about architectural aesthetic? Looking around the crowded second floor of Olin, it’s evident that the library serves its purpose for the Kenyon community.
I fear that a new library is a ploy to add to Kenyon’s physical attractiveness instead of addressing issues that matter to the student body. We deserve the opportunity to contribute more input to the future of our primary study space.
Maya Lowenstein ’18 is a sociology and film major from Toronto, ON. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.