Arguments over “loud side” versus “quiet side” are ubiquitous at Wesleyan, but another debate that lies deeper in the consciousness of Wesleyan culture is the library you choose. Here four editors present arguments in favor of the most popular study spots on campus: Olin Library, the Fishbowl, and the Science Library (SciLi). Whether you’re a first year exploring study spaces or a senior who has never dared to leave the Olin stacks, this article is addressed to you.
Brooke: There’s no denying that Olin Library is a little pretentious. How can a giant, columned building that frequently showcases a cappella concerts in its lobby not be? Steeped in ostentatious academia, Olin is the best reflection of the students who work there. And I love it. Nothing makes me feel more like an extra in Dead Poets Society than reading Sylvia Plath in one of Olin’s upholstered armchairs.
Olin is one of the most traditional “liberal arts college” fixtures on campus and one of the few elements of tradition I have an interest in keeping. When I work, I need dead silence. I’m that person in Olin glaring at you for eating chips. Eat chips on your own time. Olin is for grinding.
One of my favorite aspects of Olin is the natural light. When I’m studying, I prefer to be aware of my humanity. The towering windows help me stay sane when I’m locked inside all afternoon and let me do some people-watching on Andrus when I need a mental break.
For those who want to isolate themselves but aren’t cut out for the deep wilderness, the stacks are a perfect getaway. You can forget your own name if you sit in the stacks long enough, but you are guaranteed to remember your flashcards. (I can’t guarantee you will remember your flashcards.)
Between the open main room and the cramped stacks, Olin has four levels of study rooms to choose from and a basement for those committed to complete silence. The Art Library is a hidden gem on the second floor, as long as you watch out for the WestCo skater boys who sometimes snack there. As antisocial and intimidating as Olin may seem for those who frequent SciLi, there is an unspoken (keyword: unspoken) solidarity between the students. There is a common goal among all of them, to diligently check Facebook and sometimes work on their essay until the late hours of the night. Through the stress of academia, Olin provides an almost meditative state for the weary student.
William: What’s better than a workspace that has good study vibes and is close to Pi and Weshop? One that’s open 24 hours! That’s right: I enjoy working in the Fishbowl, and while I understand that this might be an unpopular opinion, I don’t understand why the Fishbowl has such a negative reputation. While Olin is my main study spot, the Fishbowl—which, if you’re new to campus, is the glass-walled room to the left of the entrance to Exley—offers a nice break from hiding somewhere in the stacks or working in a carrel, and its proximity to on-campus food spots (ahem, the falafel truck during finals) is definitely a plus.
I know the Fishbowl is synonymous with performative studying, but I choose to look at this as a good thing. When I’m working in the Fishbowl and being watched by people in SciLi and Exley, I tend to stop procrastinating online quicker than I would if I were studying at a carrel in Olin with no one looking over my shoulder. In Olin, I can go on Twitter for what seems like five minutes and look up to find that half an hour has passed. I think the performativity of the Fishbowl is a positive in this way, and I disagree with people who think that working into all hours of the night in the Fishbowl is some type of flex of one’s studiousness. If you’re working in the Fishbowl late into the night, good for you, but I’m sure hundreds of other students are doing this in other spots around campus, too. It’s just that the Fishbowl has glass walls, and dorms have, well, normal walls.
Another thing I love about the Fishbowl is that it can be as communal as the first floor of SciLi but maintain the quiet studiousness of third floor Olin. While it’s technically a quiet study space, and Fishbowl-ers like to keep it that way, students tend to settle down for a night of work with their friends. It’s the type of place where you can get serious work done while also sitting next to friends and sharing a joke every now and then, which I think is unique for an enclosed study spot like this on campus. First floor Olin tends to allow for too much conversation, as do those second floor lookout rooms, and we all know how loud SciLi can get.
One last thing: The natural light in the Fishbowl is incredible! Working there almost feels like you’re working outside, and it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set (and rise) or the snow fall. When I need a study spot that has an amazing ambiance and allows me to get some serious work done, I head to the Fishbowl. (And you should too…. or don’t because it can get really crowded sometimes).
Connor: SciLi is clearly the best library on campus for an obvious reason. Which would you rather do: study some complicated orgo or share juicy gossip. Orgo may be important, but SciLi is the only place that facilitates both studying and juicy gossip.
I have sneezed in Olin before, and people have looked at me sideways. Who wants to sit in total silence, too afraid to unzip their book bag to retrieve the books they need to study? Who wants to sit quietly in a glass room as everyone passes and stares at your academic excellence? Has there ever been a more transparent display of snootiness?
SciLi is the library of the proletariat (insofar as anyone at Wesleyan is the proletariat). It’s where the regular Joes go to study. There are no marble stairs here. There are no Hogwarts tables. SciLi isn’t some glass room where everyone can look and see how diligently you’re studying. SciLi is the library where the masses go (to spread gossip).
Jack: Who actually wants complete silence to study? There is nothing better to break up the monotony of a study session than running into your friends every five minutes. Not only that, but SciLi has excellent durability. If you want silence, go upstairs. If you’re in a large group, claim one of the cube study rooms with chalk whiteboards and little ventilation. And if you’re a coffee fiend, Pi Cafe sits around the corner. SciLi also provides students with the best lighting and air flow on campus. Why sit in a dusty corner of Olin when you can sit in a cozy chair by the windows with a prime view of a few trees and Church Street? Finally, where do you go when you need to pull an all-nighter during finals week? Sure, the Fishbowl is available 24 hours. But SciLi gives special 24-hour access during that last finals grind so you can push through the pain in your favorite study spot. SciLi’s dynamic features elevate it to the top of the library food chain, earning it a hotly contested gold medal.
Brooke Kushwaha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Halliday can be reached at email@example.com.
Connor Aberle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Leger can be reached at email@example.com.