Every returning Andover student knows exactly how essential the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) was to nearly every facet of student life. It served as both a social space for students to pass time during free periods or after eating lunch as well as a collaborative and silent study space. All of these services were further amplified by its central location on campus.
Andover has tried to replicate the library’s most unique function — Silent Study — by converting Lower Left of Paresky Commons to a new silent space. Similarly, The Nest has been relocated to Gelb 307, where many of the same resources are still available for students. These attempts are not perfect, but are admirable and serve their functions. But the more basic, yet equally important facilities the library provided have proven to be more difficult to replicate. Andover has publicized the availability of spaces like the Underwood Room, the Day Student Lounge, the Mailroom, the Addison Gallery of American Art, and the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology as spaces to collaboratively study. These spaces, however, fall short in truly emulating the collaborative work space of the library because of their peripheral locations around campus. (Or maybe we’re just salty because we, as Seniors, have to go through all this and won’t even be able to use the library.)
For all the current solutions to the library’s academic function, we find that there has been no replacement to adequately emulate the unified social aspect of the library. There are some options for areas where students can spend time with friends, such as dorm common rooms or downtown, but there are no spaces where students can cross friend groups or casually strike up conversations with people they don’t normally talk to. The lack of these spaces is especially hard on new day students, who have repeatedly expressed difficulty interacting with boarders, especially during the first few weeks of school.
While this social interaction can still be accomplished in pockets on campus, having a hub or a casual space further facilitates and encourages this type of social energy. This type of space is hard to replicate, but one idea that can work towards this is opening the classrooms around campus — in Gelb Science Center, Morse Hall, or Bulfinch Hall, for example — for student use. We recognize that there is important and valuable equipment in these spaces, but we understand and appreciate that the use of these spaces is a privilege, and any infraction would constitute our losing that privilege.
In the end, we realize the paramount task that adults on campus have in trying to replicate the library when there is no physically unified library. We do recognize that there are simply limited spaces on campus to foster the kind of social space that the library so perfectly supplied. It doesn’t entirely lie in the responsibility of the adults to keep trying to recreate our library when the consolidated function of the library is impossible to recreate in scattered areas around campus, which is what we are limited to. While we work together this year to buffer the inconvenience of the library renovation, we must remember that this problem is unlikely to be solved until next year — when the new library opens and all these different spaces that have been scattered are then restored.
This editorial represents the view of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.