The Oberlin Stories Project

On the haven that is a college library

Sarah Minion ’17

“Since that fateful phone call during my first year it has become second nature to, when in doubt, go to Mudd.”

Sarah relaxes in a 'womb chair.'

Nobody tells you that at first, college is really hard. I expected to be immediately obsessed with everyone and everything Oberlin had to offer, to have hip new friends, to fall right into place. Surprise! It was not that easy.

One day I was talking to my best friend on the phone. She, a year ahead in school, was offering advice for how to meet more people. “Join lots of clubs,” she said. “You know me, I’m already in four,” I responded. “Maybe try going to the library more?” she suggested, half kidding. That day, I decided to make Mudd Library my sanctuary. There, I found in its five floors of glory a sense of solace, a shared history, a home, an understanding of the true spirit of Oberlin.

The spirit of Oberlin is in the nights spent closing out Mudd at 2 a.m. after working tirelessly on a paper while mostly commiserating with classmates and gaining new perspective. It’s that feeling—as the final stragglers pack up their stuff and head to all walks of campus—that we’re all in this together.

It’s sitting at one of the large-screen desktops on the first floor and having yet another existential crisis, poring over Oprestissimo during Add/Drop, searching for the right class, and debating whether or not to change my major, yet again.

The spirit of Oberlin is sitting around the circular tables on the first floor, known endearingly as “the hot tubs,” and taking six times as long to finish my homework because every time one of my friends or I get to an interesting point in the reading, we stop because we absolutely must react and discuss it. It’s this atmosphere of collaboration that brings us together, to learn from and challenge one another, to support each other and to hold each other accountable. Oberlin is about becoming enlightened and angry all at the same time because we’re learning and having the tough conversations, and it’s eye-opening. Oberlin is about thinking critically about everything, whether it’s the prison industrial complex or Seinfeld.

It’s about the countless hours spent devouring ObieGame clues in secret meetings in closed study rooms, decrypting codes and spying on friends, completely losing ourselves in a fictional world that over the course of two weeks becomes a lifestyle. (Shoutout to Bad Intentions, best ObieGame team ever).

Oberlin is about the quirky tradition where for one Friday night each semester, more than 200 Oberlin students would rather be playing hide and seek in Mudd than be out at a party, a tradition of which I’m proud to have started.

Oberlin is about becoming effective change makers, as the great Professor of Politics Paul Dawson taught us in his Public Policy course. He said we’d never accomplish anything on our own and that surrounded by the best people we’ll ever meet we should work together. Thus one night a large group of students who barely knew each other sat huddled in the blue chairs outside of Azariah’s trying to identify a public problem and do something constructive about it. Our plan failed but we learned so much from that assignment, that class, and each other.

It’s poring over documents in the archives on the fourth floor with Oberlin High School students and realizing history can be interpreted in countless different ways, realizing the necessity of digging deeper when trying to reconstruct a historical moment, and finally, realizing how cool the opportunity to do that is.

Oberlin is about moments like the one when at 11 p.m. the night before my last final is due, I run into that same Oberlin High School student in Azariah’s. He asks for life advice which turns into a three-hour discussion about privilege, gender, and social psychology, and I’m reminded how I forgot how much I can learn from a 16-year-old, and soon we’re eating pineapple jalapeno pizza and it’s almost 2am—and that was exactly the study break I needed. And finally, in the wee hours of the morning, upon finishing that final, I realize in culmination how much I’ve learned and grown that semester.

It’s taking a power nap in a third floor womb chair and remembering how fleeting this entire experience is, but that in that moment, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Since that fateful phone call during my first year it has become second nature to, when in doubt, go to Mudd. It’s where ideas are exchanged. Where there will always be interesting people doing interesting things, or at least someone who could use a distraction. And so, over the last two years, Mudd has fostered some of my closest friendships and most meaningful conversations. It’s where we’ve become who we are.