November 11, 2005


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W e’ve all been in this situation before. You’re at Olin Library late at night, either splayed across several grease-stained comfy chairs in the near-deserted, twilight aura of Libe Caf, or you’re sitting at one of the “full-featured” computers trying to avoid the gaze of the masturbator sitting across from you. I feel your pain.

Your assignment is nearly due, so there’s no time to relocate to Uris before closing time; it’s kind of chilly, so you’re wearing your ridiculous-looking puff jacket as you type away with icy fingers in pure, forced concentration – the kind possible only after hours of procrastination and many ounces of Seattle’s Best.

This is the state of your existence when suddenly, your self-imposed solitary bubble is punctured mercilessly by the wrathful, shrill scream of the Olin Library Bell. You can’t tell if the masturbator has climaxed or if he’s been jolted so completely out of his bliss, because one of his contact lenses has spontaneously ejaculated from his eye. It is difficult to put the Olin Library Bell’s sound into words because it’s completely unique. However, I will do my best, using only the highest-quality vowels and consonants for your listening pleasure:

“BBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” So sayeth the Olin Library Bell.

But that is not the end. The Bell, you see, tricks you into complacence. You make a note to move, but the note gets lost under that pile of mental detritus you’re trying to sift through to finish the night’s studying. No worry: the cruel librarians anticipated this human design flaw. At completely arbitrary intervals, the Bell repeats its mournful squeal, only to shatter your consciousness and cruelly allow you to forget it once more.

I’d stop short of saying that things couldn’t possibly get worse, because it’s quite easy to think of even more painful scenarios. At Bob Jones University, for example, God Almighty traipses through the library stacks with His Holy Megaphone, slipping silently beside the ear of each remaining student. Using His Holy Windpipe, He intones the melody of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” in a gravelly baritone.

But I have to say, even a nightmare scenario involving Alanis Morissette isn’t that much worse than the fate of late-night stragglers at Olin Library.

The students of Bob Jones University don’t have to subsequently suffer through a small army of shrill Olin recruits shouting “The library is closing in 10 minutes!” as if no one in the building actually realized what the alarm signified. I mean, really. If a giant alarm with the aural smoothness of Vincent Gallo’s pubes won’t get a student to budge at the last second, neither is a work-study wage slave. Only the copulators in the stacks are staying the night.
But now I’m just ranting.

You have to wonder what the designers of the Olin Library Bell were thinking when it became necessary to install a timely, efficient notification system into the modernist bully that was planted warily at the edge of the Arts Quad several decades ago. Were they going for elegance or aesthetics? Clearly not. But then again, neither were the designers of the building. It’s like every American architect alive during the decades of the 1960s and 1970s went through a collective phase in which anything that looks remotely pleasing was deemed A Tool of The Man. (Have you seen Georgetown’s library? It’s like a bastard stepchild!) Thus, form did not even bother following function; it had been drowned at a wife-swapping party in Cayuga Heights.

This, to me, is the only plausible explanation for the genesis of that which we know today only as the Olin Library Bell. Its designers pursued its functionality at the expense of just about everything, including sanity and basic human decency. My only surprise is that they didn’t install a similar system into McGraw Tower to wake up the rest of campus the next morning. My solution is extremely simple. Besides the hopefully obvious step of replacing the current bell with an elementary school-level intercom system (we could even broadcast the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, every morning after the Chimes chimed in), I say we move the current Olin Library Bell into the homes of librarians, Hunter R. Rawlings III and, because they’re also annoying, the Cayuga’s Waiters. If you can’t end your misery, at least drag a few others down with you.

But now I’m just ranting.

Archived article by Andy Guess
Sun Staff Writer