Books on the beach: the ideal Olin combination
If you’ve never taken a campus tour, you should. You’ll learn quite a bit. Better still: befriend a tour guide. You’ll learn even more.
A few weeks ago I was wandering main campus in the middle of the night with my good friend, the tour guide. Essentially, we had nothing to do and lots to discuss, so a walk to Brookings at 1 a.m. seemed like absolute genius.
As we were walking past the library, the following question was posed: “Did you know that Olin used to have a beach?” No, I did not know, as was evidenced by the utter skepticism written across my face. Olin Library? A beach? Somehow, I didn’t see sand and salt water fitting in quite so well with the whole studious “yay books!” library vibe. “No, really. The roof that overhangs the first floor, it used to be flat and open, like a porch. Where the windows are on the left side used to be doors and you could go sit and study, or chill, whatever. Professors would even take their classes up there to teach.”
Can you say awesome? I did! I mean, I acknowledge that a substantial portion of what our tour guides espouse is not what one might refer to as gospel truth, but still. The whole idea of a sunroof, of a beach even sans sand, was intriguing. I was intrigued.
So, I did what any self-respecting Washington University student would do – I did research! (On a side note, in addition to a campus tour, I would suggest getting acquainted with the Student Life online archives: they are ridiculously helpful when trying to learn things about, well, student life). As it happens, this particular tour guide story is true. Olin Library used to be home to what was referred to as “the Olin beach,” an area open to all students and faculty for basically any purpose to which one sought to put it. From what I gather it was quite the hotspot, with everything from sunbathing to serious studying taking place on its “shore.” The beach met its demise during the library renovation in 2001, at which point it was partially enclosed, and in its place we were given. benches. Benches and landscaping.
I don’t know about you, but I happen to think that there’s a difference between a bench and a rooftop. Furthermore, there is a distinct difference between a rooftop and grass. The area outside of Olin is beautiful and it’s a great place to hang out when the weather’s nice, but somehow it’s just. not a rooftop beach. Maybe it’s the novelty value, maybe it’s the fact that the beach isn’t there anymore, but after the initial “wow” my first thought was, “Why don’t we have that?” Benches are nice, but you can only fit so many people on a bench before it becomes ridiculously awkward and uncomfortable and a total violation of personal space. And landscaping is also great, but bugs and dirt and all the things that come along with landscaping are really not. I’d even go so far as to call them slightly icky.
Thus, while I admit freely that I know nothing about architecture or insurance or why the beach was closed off to begin with, and while I’m sure that there are plenty of practical, logistical reasons for why that particular privilege was taken away, I still think that the Olin beach would be a pretty cool thing to bring back. Maybe it couldn’t be part of the library; maybe it’d have to go elsewhere; honestly, maybe a lot of things. The fact remains that a beach on campus, even (especially?) a fake beach, would be pretty sweet. Don’t you think?
Sara is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]
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