One of the most useful skills that I have acquired while attending Oberlin is how to effectively use a library. Knowing how to utilize the resources of a library is a great skill for anyone to have, but it is particularly helpful for those us who spend their time studying history :P
When I first came to Oberlin in the fall of 2007 - yes, I am old - I knew basic library skills, but never really had to use a library for an extensive research project. Thank you, California public education.
But I digress. The libraries here are incredible. We have four of them: the conservatory library, devoted entirely to music; the art library, conveniently located near the Allen Memorial Art Museum; the science library, which has huge windows and everything science; and Mudd library, which covers just about everything else. Mudd has dominated the bulk of my research hours at Oberlin and I have come to both love and hate it.
Side note! Technically, Mudd's full name is the Seeley G. Mudd Center. No one calls it that, though. It's just Mudd.
The wonderful things about Mudd heavily outnumber the negative, so I'll start with the negative and work more towards the positive side of things.
I have two major complaints. FIrst, Mudd's exterior is oppressive. It's as if someone sat down one day and said, "Hey! I know! Let's make a library look like a giant concrete block! That will make students want to spend time there!" What a fail.
Concrete + snow = blah
My second complaint is about the atmosphere during midterms and finals. During these high-stress times of the year the atmosphere in Mudd becomes tense and a bit overwhelming. I often will seek out unconventional study locations during midterms and finals so as to avoid excess stress.
These complaints are relatively minor, but they are not insignificant. But now onto the fun part: awesome things about Mudd!
Womb Chairs: Womb chairs are the best things about Mudd. Though they may look odd and uncomfortable, womb chairs are the most amazing chairs ever. They are much more conducive to napping than they are to studying, but I know people who have pulled off both.
Don't be fooled - I have never even been mildly productive while occupying a womb chair. They make excellent napping spaces, though. Photo courtesy of Lisa Brown '11.
Interior design: Unlike the exterior, Mudd's interior is warm and inviting. Colorful couches, womb chairs, and brightly colored shelves and study areas make Mudd much more friendly than the exterior would have you believe.
Reference Librarians: No doubt about it, these are some of the most amazingly helpful people that I've encountered on campus. You can schedule appointments with them for assistance with research projects, general studying advice, or just to give them an opportunity to reveal sources that you may have overlooked. Know them, love them, thank them for their general amazingness. Shout out to Jennifer Starkey, the reference librarian that is working with all the honors students in the History Department! She's awesome.
Azariah's Café: Located on the first floor of Mudd, Azariah's is my ideal study environment. A little bit of noise, a little bit of socializing, access to caffeine, snacks, and, most importantly, outlets to keep my laptop charged.
OhioLink, reference materials, databases, special collections, etc.: We have access to a phenomenal number of resources through our library system. OhioLink connects to libraries throughout Ohio, allowing us to borrow materials from those libraries. I've been constantly surprised by the reference materials I've been able to find in our library. Complete volumes of The Fortnightly Review for the duration of its publication? Check. Access to a 19th-century British pamphlets collection through JSTOR? Check. And, to top it off, special collections has some of the most amazing resources I could possibly imagine.
The atmosphere: When it isn't finals or midterms, the atmosphere within Mudd is welcoming. The academic commons on the first floor serves as a space for socializing and studying. I often find myself wandering through the academic commons while searching for a study break. There's almost always someone I know hanging out or "studying." It's pretty awesome.
This is just a brief overview of my least favorite and my favorite aspects of Mudd. I have by no means covered all of the amazing resources that Mudd has to offer.
As I work on my honors thesis this semester, I'll be clocking a ridiculous amount of hours in Mudd. I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the experience.
And, sometimes, I just like to goof off instead of studying.
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." - Jorge Luis Borges