For second-year liberal studies major, Elana Gladish, the fourth and fifth floors of Kennedy Library are somewhere she rarely dares to venture.
“I like a focused environment for studying as much as the next person but the amount of quiet above the third floor [of the library] makes me feel like I can’t even breathe without being too loud” says Gladish.
As the designated “quiet study” floors of the five-story library, the fourth and fifth floors are intended for individual study. For offenders of this rule, “library staff are available to reinforce… expectations of quiet” according to Kennedy Library’s website.
It’s generally accepted that the level of noise decreases with each added level of the library.
“I much prefer to study with a group of friends even if we’re working on separate things,” says Gladish. “I’ve never personally used the upper levels but I might need them one day so I’m glad it’s an option.”
… I’m surrounded by all of this information that I’ll probably never use … it almost feels sacrilege.”
First-year liberal studies major, Julia Pennington, has a 10 page research paper due next week. Never mind the fact that she’s had the assignment all quarter and hasn’t started yet, it’s time to go to the only place she can focus: the library.
“I get too in my head when I try to study in my room, the library is great because when I’m tempted to distract myself I see all these people around me studying and it helps keep me on task,” says Pennington.
With roughly 1.5 million visits to Kennedy Library recorded in the 2017-18 school year, Pennington is certainly not alone in her study habits.
But despite hundreds of visits each day, Cal Poly’s campus library has seen a 90 percent decrease in print loans since the year 2000 according to the library’s website.
“To be honest I’ve never even thought about using the stacks of books for anything other than hiding from the crowds during finals week,” says Pennington.
This is not a phenomenon unique to Cal Poly. According to a study conducted by the Association of Research Libraries, there has been a 72 percent decrease in circulations per student since 1995 nationwide.
For her research paper, Pennington had not considered using any print materials in her works cited.
“I’ve heard of professors that force students to use books for their research papers or essays but it seems like such a waste of time when I can find the same information online in seconds,” says Pennington.
In order to keep up with the changing ways that students seek information, Kennedy Library has digitized over 500,000 resources according to the library’s most recent statistics.
“You have to have a bit more patience to use the library database but a lot of times it pays off … it’s a lot easier than reading through an entire book” says Pennington.
As she settles in to write her research paper among the thousands of unused books, Pennington acknowledges the irony.
“It’s kind of funny how I’m surrounded by all of this information that I’ll probably never use,” she says as she powers on her laptop. “It almost feels sacrilege.”
But for now, Pennington has a paper to write and the research books will remain on the shelves.
On April 23, 2019 the world came together for it’s annual celebration of reading and literature. With the event seen as an important platform for humanitarian issues from literacy to immigration; many authors, libraries and publishing companies took to Twitter to spread awareness.
As of Tuesday evening, Cal Poly’s Kennedy Library social media failed to acknowledge the event altogether, leaving some students to question the library’s commitment to it’s literacy programs and other philanthropic efforts.
First-year business major Jeremy Lee says,”With how much Cal Poly promotes diversity and all of the events thrown at the library during the year you would think that they would see World Book Day as an opportunity to bring the community together.”
In fact, other universities have successfully used the platform in the past.
Partnered with the Los Angeles Times, University of Southern California hosts an annual Festival of Books ahead of World Book Day.
The festival serves as a meeting place for the community all while promoting literacy and global awareness.
Lee believes that Cal Poly could benefit from events similar to this.
“Not too many people are excited about anything our library has to say,” says Lee, “if we had an attraction to get people involved for a good cause we could only stand to benefit from that.”
While Kennedy Library may have stayed out of the conversation this year, World Book Day 2020 may see Cal Poly among those in support of world literacy and diversity.
At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Robert E. Kennedy Library
is one of the university’s most popular meeting spots. However, the words “Kennedy
Library” are rarely used in conversation by those who gather there. In fact,
the campus library is almost solely referred to by abbreviation.
“The lib”, as it’s known by students and faculty, may
seem like a lazy truncation of two syllables but to those in the
know it’s simply part of the culture.
First-year liberal studies major Julia Pennington says,
“I remember being really weirded out by ‘the lib’ at first but now I almost
feel like it’s weird if someone doesn’t say it.”
As Cal Poly’s only library, “the
lib” is a hub for both social and academic activities.
“The lib is an essential part of so many people’s lives,”
says second-year materials engineering major Dylan Orsolini, “it’s mostly a
place to study or catch up with friends while pretending to study but we all
know that guy who goes to the library just to sleep.”
The habit of shortening names doesn’t stop with “the
With an abundance of acronyms and abbreviations, it’s
clear that Cal Poly as well as many other universities each have a language all
“When I first toured here and heard things like the
PAC and ‘the lib’ it was like they were speaking in tongues…it was very
overwhelming,” says first-year English major Abby Edgecumbe.
Edgecumbe eventually got used to these nuances, saying,
“I like to call our library ‘the lib’ because it feels like something so
different than my public library back at home.”
“I distinctly remember a time during orientation where
I refused to call it ‘the lib’,” says Pennington, “a lot of subconscious slip
ups led me to the point where I just gave up…now I don’t even think about it.”
In an age of increased social media presence, it makes
sense that the trend
of abbreviation also applies to college campuses.
According to the psychology website, Changing Minds, “Turning
something into an abbreviation makes it more concrete and tangible…it makes it
a distinct ‘thing’ that has a life of its own.”
The connotation of ‘the lib’ is something that is
completely unique to Cal Poly, which is why it has become so ubiquitous among
the student body. This also explains why so many of Cal Poly’s central
locations have been abbreviated.
Pennington says, “that’s one of the things I love about Cal Poly, ‘the lib’ is just another piece of knowledge specific to our school that really makes it feel like a community.”
“Sometimes I think of ‘the lib’ out of context and I feel a little stupid saying it,” says Orsolini, “but it is a phrase that I haven’t heard anywhere else, so I suppose it’s special in its stupidity.”