The library was probably the place I most wanted to show Eric at Oberlin. And with good reason: I more or less lived there, especially my senior year. It’s also just a really incredible space. All of the bright 60s decor has been lovingly preserved, and my Russian professor assures me that he is fighting the good fight for our polyester chair covers whenever the subject of an overhaul comes up. Going back to the library was a really intense memory explosion for me, in the best possible way. A few things have changed here and there, but I am happy to see that, for the most part, it’s just as it was, waiting for me to rifle through the PGs and settle in on a couch for the afternoon. We lovingly refer to the library as the spaceship, and you can see why.
The most coveted real estate in the library is right here: the beloved womb chair. There are maybe 20 of them throughout the library, and they are the world’s best place to
study take a nap.
There is actually a storied lore about these chairs. They are indeed so coveted that there have been multiple attempts to steal them, all culminating in our fearless library director chasing them down on 71. Don’t worry, RAE, Eric is no thief. Just a reflective individual. Being silly.
The second floor is where I spent most of my time. I did so much reading in those green chairs. I am so glad they’re still there.
I also liked to hide in this corner. I remember writing in my journal here, watching the snow fall with a Southern girl’s wonder.
There’s a special room with old school typewriters, where I desperately tried to type my FLAS application forms. And eventually gave up. Typewriter alignment and tiny spaces are not for the faint of heart.
This room used to be the writing center, where I worked for years, helping fellow students with their papers. It has a different purpose now, but the furniture is the same. And somewhere in the files, there are some resources I created.
I spent my Saturdays and spare afternoons shelving bound journals here. It was the most awesome of all the shelving jobs because you didn’t even have to read call numbers: just match the color of the spine to the corresponding hole!
I also used to hide over here. Comfy couches!
Oh, and you can go on the roof!
More womb chairs!
More 60s colors!
And books, books, books, as far as the eye can see.
The rainbow couches of my day have been replaced by these less colorful models. They are way less comfy. I bet there has been a 67% drop in naps here.
And this is what we call A-Level. The basement study lounge and computer lab that’s open 24 hours a day. Wheeeeee, you can imagine all the good times we had down here!
I used this very dictionary to do my Russian homework, many moons ago.
I saved the best part for last. The library is full of these study carrels, and anyone can sign up for one. You can also get your own private office, called a scholar study, for one semester of your senior year if you are writing an Honors thesis. I planned to use my scholar study in the spring of my senior year, so I got a carrel for the fall. And then I started sneezing uncontrollably. Being allergic to dust is a deadly blow to a bookworm. I went out on a limb and asked RAE, our fearless library director, if there were any extra scholar studies in the fall for an allergy-prone bookworm. And he said yes!
So I spent a whole year in this little room, and I loved it.
Just for fun, I scanned the pictures I took of my study the day before I cleaned it out, all those years ago. This was long before I ever had an inkling that I’d become infatuated with documenting the beauty of the everyday. It just felt momentous, so I took a picture. And I am so, so, so happy I did because I could never have recreated it in my memory. I covered everything with bright fabric and taped up pictures of my family and friends. And I still use that keychain wallet. Wow.
This was my bulletin board. More fabric, more pictures, a bowling score sheet (I won!), and little notecards crammed full of encouraging things my advisor had said about my project. It heartens me so much to see this because I had forgotten all about it. If you had asked me then, I am sure I would have told you that I was not creative whatsoever, and yet, I see it there, a little glimmer of what was to come. I love that I made this place my own.
These were my books that year. The most amazing thing about Oberlin is that when you check out a book, it’s yours for the whole semester, unless someone else recalls it. No one else wanted to read about early Russian film or avant garde poetry, so these books were all mine. It was awesome.
The scholar studies are those windows you see on the second and third floor, facing out toward campus. The view was wonderful. And your friends could always tell if you were in your study. So useful! I am so grateful for everything that Oberlin gave me, but maybe this was the best gift of all: a place to call my own, to spread out and study and read and write, to put my thoughts together and bring them into order. A place to ride out snowstorms and keep me from having to lug my books back and forth from my house to the library. I so, so, so appreciated it. Thanks, Oberlin.