At times, I feel I am a ship at sea navigating a tricky coastline. Every assignment I complete is a jagged rock narrowly avoided. Each essay a tumultuous wave forcing a change of direction. With so many obstacles, it seems unavoidable that I would eventually be overwhelmed.
Fortunately, nestled behind the sentries of St. Lawrence University’s landmark Richardson Hall and Gunnison Memorial Chapel, I have a beam of dazzling light to guide me—my lighthouse, the Owen D. Young (ODY) library.
What can possibly be so interesting about a library? There’s always going to be shelves and shelves of books, maybe some pieces of art. But ODY is different. Architect Don Hisaka’s brutalist design hits you like a ton of concrete because, well, it is tons of concrete. The library appears as though it rose up out of the ground instead of being built on top of it. Every corner, sharp turn, heavy concrete overhang, and glass panel is deliberate in creating a beautiful refuge to weather any conditions. You can feel the space around you.
Don’t believe me? Just look at ODY at night; the soft yellow lights illuminating the grass before it like a lighthouse on a dark sea’s coast. A warm tungsten glow defines the second-floor trees inside, and by 2 a.m., you might catch “the night crew,” fixated students in the 24-hour room writing on the rolling whiteboards or dozing off in front of the blue light of their laptops.
When I am pitching and swaying, weighed down by assignments, applications, and meetings, the ODY Library is my salvation. It becomes a beam of hope and optimism and while I am inside, I know I can finish anything before 11:59 p.m.
During my junior year, studying remotely from home because of the pandemic, I would daydream about walking through ODY’s front entrance, hearing the slow rumble of the revolving blue doors that followed and the clicking of my shoes on the scuffed grey linoleum tile of the lobby. Once the day’s snow was scraped off my boots and left to melt in the lobby, I faced a choice: do I go down to the archival basement? Or do I go upstairs into the forest? While trees reach toward skylights in the forest on the top floor, now that I have returned to study on campus, I usually choose the basement. There, I sit in a large room below giant windows gathering the day’s first sunlight on the floor above.
At night, I become a stowaway, tucked into a desk at the farthest corner of the lowest level, surrounded by complete silence interrupted only by turning pages and my clacking nails on computer keys. It is that elusive pin-drop silence I have come to rely on at ODY. One disruptive whirring of a fan and all the information I’ve gathered is at risk of sliding off the decks and my brain cells feel like they are covered in algae after being tossed overboard.
During my remote year, it wasn’t just the silence of ODY that I missed (though trying to study with sibling feet trotting and dogs barking was difficult) it was the feeling. Now that my last semester at St. Lawrence has come, many things have changed. However, Owen D. Young Library has not. It still has those heavy blue doors, oversized bean bags to disappear into, and the ever-churning printers whirring like the spinning of the lighthouse beacon. The library is my radiating constant. A place I can go and let the tides of assignments ebb and flow over me while I steer safely towards its light.