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Ugly edifice of evil of praiseworthy beacon of learning?
We are all lucky enough to attend a school with a truly beautiful campus. From the cosmopolitan agora that is Red Square to the quiet and pious symmetry of Dahlgren, there are few vistas on campus that aren’t postcard-worthy. And yet, tucked in the corner of our picturesque front lawn, beneath the austere and regal façade of Healy, lies the squat, angular Lauinger Library—a gloomy, gray structure that looks more like a decrepit Soviet housing project than a comfortable place to study. “Lauinger sucks,” students moan constantly. “I can never do any work there.”
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing people whine about the library’s ugliness, about how useless it is, and about how they can’t study there. I cringed when the Voice’s blog, Vox Populi, called it “a hulking, concrete behemoth [that] visually assaults thousands of students every day,” or when Provost James O’Donnell, tongue just barely in cheek, mockingly dubbed it a “beacon of our commitment to learning and inquiry.” So I want to explain, publicly, my affection for this grim little building in hopes of helping it with its image problem.
I will concede that Lauinger is not an attractive-looking building. Its exterior is bleak and dreary, and the bizarre, angular offices that jut sharply and inexplicably out of its sides give it a peculiar and not entirely pleasing shape. Its unfortunate positioning next to the ornate and imperious silhouettes of Healy, Copley, and White-Gravenor only makes its unsightliness more painfully obvious.
Yet, night after night, I still find myself flashing my GoCard to the razor-tongued, gospel-singing Jamaican lady who guards the door and settling in for another long session with my schoolwork. I am very easily distracted, and my roommates are particularly loud and rambunctious, so doing work at home is really not an option. Lauinger, at least, is generally quiet, clean, and free of distractions. Early in my freshman year, it became my go-to study spot.
Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome, but all those nights spent sandwiched in the stacks and cramped into study carrels have given me a genuine fondness for the building, and even a totally undeserved sense of ownership. From the icy, silent tomb that is the basement lower level to the fifth floor chairs that overlook the front lawn, I feel like the building is partially mine. I don’t mind the hospital linoleum floors, the occasionally eerie lighting, or the always-frigid air. Those are the things that keep all of the noisy, obnoxious people away. During midterms, when my usual spots are packed with lax bros pretending to cram for their Principles of Accounting exams while they flirt with whichever latte-clutching bimbo they brought with them, I am almost offended. Who invited these people here?
Lauinger’s appeal to me started out as purely practical—being inside such a joyless concrete crypt of a building would motivate me to work efficiently, I thought—but the library also provides ample opportunities for recreation and distraction. The lower level features electronic stacks of books that operate with the touch of a button, as well as a great collection of antique dictionaries and atlases. An afternoon spent reading and enjoying a hot coffee and bagel in the fourth floor window room, gazing absentmindedly at the sunlight in the trees across the river and the towering Rosslyn skyline beyond them, is wonderfully relaxing. The fifth floor has an impressive selection of Japanese graphic novels, and the Gelardin New Media Center’s huge catalog of DVDs look great on those big monitors. The special collections section even houses a 1776 broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence worth over $500,000. Take that, Hariri Building!
I realize that enjoying the time I spend in the library makes me an enormous nerd (I have friends, I promise). But I’m tired of people talking shit about a building I spend a good deal of time in. Lauinger is one of the few places on campus with reliable Internet access, and despite what you may have heard, it’s not that hard to find a power outlet. It contains an incredible number of interesting books. It has color printers, scanners, video cameras, and even high-quality audio recording equipment. I don’t care if its cheerless, monolithic exterior offends your haughty WASP sensibilities; it’s a great place to learn, and one of my favorite buildings on campus.
You don’t have to study there, but please, stop hating on my library.