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Bringing the Outside World In

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As 2020 begins, Antioch College as always has more than its share of community members with visions of victories for the future (and the present too!) We are a smaller community than many of you may remember. That may be a good thing as classes are smaller and intimate. There is nowhere to hide if you haven’t done your reading! There is also plenty of quality time to be mentored. Everyone pretty much knows each other by name, which makes for a good start in making a tight-knit community.

Often throughout the day, the Olive Kettering Library feels somewhere between a student union and a living room. Students come in to check their mail because the Bookstore is in the OKL: “Did my textbook arrive yet? I got a super deal from Amazon.” There are still some reserve copies of some textbooks but often things are available online in different ways; Antioch students exhibit a combination of ingenuity and cooperation. As textbooks are infinitely and terribly more expensive than they once were, people find their textbooks via Amazon, passing around their textbooks, and sharing scans or photocopies. What mystifies an elder like myself is to see a student ask to see a two-hour reserve copy of a current reading and then whip out a cellphone and take photos of the reading and say ,“I don’t have time to use the copier; this works for me.” Also with 50 million books in OHIOLINK (interlibrary loan) many people find their textbooks that way.

The OKLIBRARY has some comfortable sofas here and there and an “ol’ skool” snackbar with free coffee. It runs on the honor system. If you don’t have money on you, then you leave a post-it note. The math is on your own as prices are posted. Sometimes people even treat each other by paying each other forward. Sometimes people snack and then camp in, and at other times, people rush in between classes. There is a three-hour class on designing your own degree and when that class breaks, it is like a tour bus breezes through. Nothing fixes momentary frustration like something crunchy, salty, or sweet.

The old reference area has been moved back near the Joe Cali Room (a place to listen to music, watch TV, have a meeting or a class, or at other times, a quiet and comfortable study space).

When it comes to spaces, the Library will soon have a great new space — a space that the Library Director, Kevin Mulhall, hopes will be an unusual space like no other on campus! This is where vision, creativity, and sustainability all intersect.

During summer 2019, once the 20,000 or so reference books and stacks were moved, it was amazing to see what a light and airy space was there that most people never knew existed. The Library’s mid-century modern picture windows have fabulous views of campus. This time of year one can see the Wellness Center (the old Gym), McGregor, South Hall, and the Horseshoe framed by white-branched Sycamores. As the days get longer during spring and summer, light will flood into this space in the afternoons as these huge windows face west.

A November/December Block course headed by Michael Casselli ’87 studied the concepts of “Biophilic” design, a “natural” for this new area. One of the principles of biophilic design is to try to bring elements or the feeling of nature inside in such a manner that there is a feeling of calm, comfort, connection, and refuge. Unlike what may go on in most campuses, this is being done from the ground, or grassroots, up. The students designed the graphics for the floor, not outside architects or contractors. So in the floor are patterns of leaves, and as many these days like chess, there is also a giant chessboard in the floor. You may be floored to know that the laying of this new space’s floor was done in the most frugal of ways. Just about all the tiles were remnants of green, black, and light colored tiles. The class along with a couple of local alumni volunteers (Richard Zopf ’73 and Jim Spangler ’74) did this over a fortnight or so.

Visions for 2020 will include some new furniture, a water feature perhaps and a green growing wall, a whiteboard, and a big screen TV. Some of the furniture may be made in-house by using Casselli’s 3-D printer. And there will be some awesome surprises. This will be an extra space to have perhaps a poetry reading, speakers, open ComCil meetings, classes, and at other times a calmer place to recharge.

Bringing the outside world in, in a biophilic way, seems a good fit for us as often Antochians travel to the outside world and then bring bits of that world back. Perhaps designing a space biophilically might be blazing a trail for what may eventually be done in parts of Main Building. I often see work trucks parked just outside Main Building, so I know that gradually and quietly that iconic building will come online.

Perhaps you might come to campus sometime to visit. If you get overstimulated, come by and check out the new Library space for a moment of calm and rejuvenation.

Photos courtesy of Michael Casselli ’87