September 22, 2010

#63: Explore The Secret Underground Tunnel Between Olin and Uris Libraries

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John M. Olin has been my go-to guy since my freshman year of college. I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for this statement, but who cares (not me): Olin is the most superior library on Cornell’s campus. This of course is my wildly personal and completely unscientific opinion, but if you disagree… bring it on. I can probably argue more passionately about my library-of-choice then you care to know.

I digress. Back to Olin’s relevance re: The 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do list. Olin gets more shout-outs on the list than any other library on campus. (Do you see Mann library make any appearance on this list? No. Coincidence? I think not). I’ll admit that Uris Library takes a close second to Olin; the balcony that overlooks Libe Slope provides a pretty sweet view, and the AD White reading room does make me feel like I’m at Hogwarts.

Given the amount of time I spend in Olin (too much) it would be an embarrassment if I didn’t complete every task Olin-related. #63. Explore the secret underground tunnel between Uris and Olin libraries – was calling out to me.

If you haven’t heard of this elusive tunnel, I wouldn’t be surprised -I hadn’t either until I read the 161 list. An executive summary of the tunnel and its purpose: the tunnel runs between Uris and Olin primarily used by the library staff to shuttle books and other supplies between the buildings. The passageway is closed off to the public and restricted to staff for security reasons.

When I mentioned my desire to explore this hidden tunnel N, H, and C wanted in on the adventure. Since the endeavor was likely to include some facet of breaking-and-entering, four heads were definitely better (and more fun) than one.

Our first approach to finding the tunnel entrance was simple: search, find, enter. We walked down the stairs to the basement of Olin and located a library map. After agreeing that the door labeled “Staff Only” was likely the entrance to the tunnel, the obvious (and stupid) choice was to walk to the door and the try the handle. Locked. Shocking.

We then wandered deeper into the basement to see if we could find some alternate entrance into the tunnel, perhaps one not obviously noted on the library map. In the process of searching, we did manage to find the Kroch stacks complete with electronically movable bookshelves. As we walked, I turned to H “tag you’re it!”

“What?” she gave me a blank stare, and then quickly caught on – and ran off down the book-lined hallway to tag N. This game of tag lasted long, and loudly, enough to annoy the studiers (sorry about that…) qualifying us to check off # 51. Play a game of tag in the Kroch Library stacks. So, attempt one was not a total wash.

We walked back to the “Staff Only” door to see if any other brilliant ideas struck. C had an idea – “Wait hold on…they do this in the movies…what if I slipped my cell phone underneath the door so we had to call the library circulation desk to retrieve my cell phone…and then someone else distracted him/her and took the keys off his belt…” But there wasn’t really enough room to fit a cell phone underneath the door, and overtly stealing the keys off of someone’s body probably wouldn’t end well. Clearly, we needed to regroup because breaking in wasn’t going too well.

Strategy two: talk to the circulation desk, and convince them to let us into the tunnel. I approached the circulation manager with two goals in mind: confirm the location of the tunnel door, and perhaps even convince him to let us inside. The former goal was barely achieved and the latter was an absolute epic failure.

Me: “So, I know there is a tunnel between Olin and Uris, hypothetically…if one wanted to walk through the tunnel…where would they find the entrance…?”

Circulation Manager: “Why?”

Me: “Well, just out of curiosity, just to say you’ve walked through the tunnel…”

Circulation Manager: “Why?”

This conversation was not going very well, and I quickly realized he was definitely not going to aid our efforts in confirming the location of the entrance, let alone opening the door. He warned me that if I attempted to open the door without a key, the fire alarm would sound, and Olin had security cameras stationed all over the place.  I quickly changed up my conversation strategy into pure reconnaissance gathering.

“Ok, so I guess only those with keys walk through the tunnel?”

“Yes.” He confirmed, “…only those who work for Olin or Uris libraries.” Thus, the “Staff Only” sign on the tunnel door.

“Hmm oh well – thank you very much!”

The take away message from that conversation? I needed to find someone who worked for Olin or Uris, with keys that gave them access to all the entrances and exits within the libraries. Luckily, I have friends in high places. I relayed the conversation to N, C and H and we agreed we clearly needed an inside man. Immediately we all thought of the same person; I felt pretty stupid for not thinking about him before – A was it, he was our guy. We called him up and he agreed that the following day he would meet us at a mutually convenient time. Day two: N, C and H and I met our inside man at the arranged time and place in Olin. We all causally walked towards the elevator and rode down the basement. A guided us to the tunnel door (for the record – our speculations were correct, it was the door we had tried to open the day prior). He opened the door with the key and we stepped inside– and there we were, inside the secret underground tunnel between Uris and Olin. As we made our way through the tunnel the contents and surroundings were a little underwhelming. Essentially the secret tunnel looks like your standard unfinished basement: stored pieces of wood for undetermined purposes, stacks of packaged paper (perhaps for the printers in the libraries?), and cargo carrier rolling platforms used to transport books and supplies. N thought the tunnel could have used some decorative hieroglyphics. We continued to the end of the tunnel which landed us at a door to Uris’ old-school elevator. We called for the elevator and rode it to the third floor Uris stacks, at which point we walked through the stacks to the A.D. White reading room and down the stairs out the front entrance of Uris. Take away morals and final comments on this week’s 161 adventures:

Original Author: Eve Shabto