Hitting the Books: The Truth Behind Cal Poly’s Strangest Abbreviation

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 lib”.

With an abundance of acronyms and abbreviations, it’s clear that Cal Poly as well as many other universities each have a language all their own.

“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.”

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