It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, winter coats are making their debuts and Cornell students are hibernating in the library, drowning under weeks of work that never got done. The first half of the semester has caught up with us.
Last night after plopping my backpack on a desk in Olin (I was lucky enough to snag a seat at 8:00 p.m. after some aggressive lurking), I looked around and realized that Olin Library, especially around this time of year, is a social psychology experiment or science fiction novel waiting to happen. Social roles are assumed as soon as those (confusing and really heavy) glass doors are opened, and entirely unique social etiquette rules are followed. This is true of all 15 libraries on campus; however, I think Olin groupies form a sort of cult, and thus deserve 700 words all to themselves. Olin kids — you know who are — identify as such, but are, at the same time, very diverse. Allow me to explain.
First, there are the Libe Café kids. Anyone who “studies” in Libe Café is fooling themselves into thinking that they are effectively managing their time. Libe (or Amit Bhatia, as it were) is all about the scene. There are those who can always be found there, those who schmooze and linger and those who try to have important group meetings but end up getting carried away in conversation. For most, however, Libe Café serves merely as a break from all that is terrible: The problem set, the midterm paper or the 30 page study guide. We walk in, grab our coffee and enviously admire those who are parked at a table catching up with a friend.
Next are the first-floor types. These kids know they can’t get away with hanging in Libe, but also need a few scheduled people-watching breaks in order to be most productive. The trick, of course, is landing a seat. First-floor types lurk, poach and save seats like it’s an Olympic sport. And during finals, first-floorers know that, even with strategic planning, every seat is taken by 9:30 a.m.
Then there’s Kroch, or Asia. These are first-floor types who either got to Olin late (read: rookies), or are bothered by the commotion and noise of the librarians at the information desk. Kroch is also a good bet for anyone who lacks self-control, as cell phone service miraculously disconnects as soon as you step foot inside.
Basement hooligans don’t need the fancy desks of Mann, nor proper lighting or outlets to get it done. They came to Olin to cram for their prelim tomorrow, and they aren’t happy about it. They also like sounding hardcore and saying “I’m camping out in the basement of Olin,” as it sounds particularly pathetic (incidentally, that’s a conversation for the coffee line: competition over who has more work and whose life sucks more). However, the basement can, during prelim season, get third-floor of Mann scene-y, so newbies beware.
Stacks kids are ambitious, hard working and require limited or no social interaction to make it through. They like the silent, secluded, even creepy atmosphere on the top floors of the place, and don’t come up for air until every PowerPoint slide has been memorized. Buzzing iPhones and loud music that is audible from your neighbor’s headphones are strictly prohibited in the stacks. In short, stacks kids are the marathoners amongst us and shouldn’t be threatened.
Next there’s the floater. The girl who comes in, wanders through the first floor, fails to find an empty seat (duh, it’s 1:00 p.m. on a Sunday) and sheepishly leaves, not knowing all of Olin’s secrets. Most likely, the floater ends up across the way in Uris.
Finally, there’s the outsider. I don’t mean the Olin virgin (they’re either a floater or too intimidated to come in), I mean the kids who hang out outside on the steps, either on the phone or smoking a cigarette — or often both. The smoking outsider has taken a break from the grind and is more often than not wearing plaid. The on-the-phone outsider is either a) crying to her mom about how stressed she is about her Psych 101 prelim or b) taking an urgent call that simply couldn’t wait until the (long) walk home. Outsiders need their space and, like stacks kids, shouldn’t be messed with.
So, there you have it. Olin Library is as socially divided as your high school lunchroom or Trillium at 1:25. However, while your place of study says a lot about you, your habits while studying may tell more. Last night I had to leave my prime real estate on the first floor (yes, I’m that type) and do the-oh-so-dreaded deed of studying from home, because the boy next to me was LOL-ing — obnoxiously and far too often — at the movie he had downloaded. Yes, he was in the library during the throws of prelims watching a movie. For pleasure. The snacker, the cougher and the loud typist are coming out of the woodwork during the intensity of prelim season. And worse than that, they’re stealing your seat as you read this. So, fellow territorial Olin kids, I warn you: Now, more than ever, be cautious when entering that-which-we-assume-is-ours. Boundaries are being crossed and there’s no telling when it will be controlled.
Hannah Deixler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shades of Grey appears alternate Thursdays this semester.