Walking through Athens, Ohio, a tour guide will point out the grandeur of Schoonover Center or the intricate design of Baker University Center; but to some, it’s the Vernon R. Alden Library that catches their eye and distracts them from the rest of College Green.
The library towers over Baker Center and College Green; its long, rectangular eyes watching over the thousands upon thousands of students who come and go from its contemporary structure. Many fear the responsibility that comes with entering the library, it’s where people go to be stressed not become stress-free.
For me, on the contrary, it’s just where I want to be while at college; well, maybe not so much on the weekends but you get my point. The windows, reflecting the blue sky or making patterns of rain on a wet day, are welcoming. As I walk toward the fourth floor entrance with its revolving doors, “The American Woman” – the statue in Wolfe Garden, – is always there to greet me.
In the spring, fresh flowers surround the bronze statue, but for me, when white snow falls around the statue, and her figure is a stark blue against the white snow, that is when the art and the library are the most beautiful.
Although I enter on the fourth or second floor, it’s the seventh level that is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio. Rows and rows of books, red, blue, green, are all parallel to one another in bookcases that fill the entire square footage of the floor. Desks are situated next to the windows, where the studious become the watchers. At times, the ability to see out and watch the busy lives below can be distracting but the connection to the outside is also calming.
I hear people comment about the smell of the seventh floor, expressing distaste in the poignant musk of the old books. It’s a smell I appreciate, who knows when those old books will be replaced by cold, thin technology that doesn’t crack when you open it or flutter as you flip through it. I’m being dramatic, I know, but when it comes to the seventh floor of Alden I can’t help but be swept up in it.
But just what makes the seventh floor better than all the others? It’s not just the books or the view, but the silence that comes with being at the very top of the library. The floor enforces the no-talking rule; the only sounds heard tend to be the shuffling of feet, the faint beat of someone’s study music or the ding of the elevator. I do my best to chew gum as quietly as possible or take my bagel out of a crinkly paper bag by moving as slowly as possible.
People respect your study space, they respect your need to work diligently without being interrupted by loud conversations about weekend antics or who won Sunday’s playoff game (sadly, not the Steelers).
Alden Library is where I go to better myself, its seventh floor gives me a serene place to relax and focus on my workload. It’s a sanctuary for those who want to get away from the world but still be able to look out and see the busy lives below. For these reasons and more, Alden Library is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio.