Graphic: Best Building on the Hill Sean Rogers/The Olaf Messenger
With my third year at St. Olaf well under way, I know now more than ever just how difficult it is to choose a favorite building on our gorgeous campus. From stately Holland to the vibrant Center for Art and Dance to busy Buntrock, there’s always a space for me to spend an afternoon — or an entire day — enveloped in whatever type of atmosphere I’m craving the most. However, on a given weekday afternoon, my heavy backpack, Cage cappuccino, and I always seem to gravitate toward Rolvaag Memorial Library, and there are good reasons for that.
To start, the building itself feels magical. With its winding central staircase, high ceilings, and old, picturesque windows that beckon in the natural light, Rolvaag’s character is undeniable. The air inside is always cool and smells faintly of worn, well-loved books. It’s cozy, inviting, and nostalgic. Perhaps what I love best about the library, though, is its variety of nooks, rooms, and open spaces to choose from when it’s time to work. While I have an ongoing, unwritten list of my favorite Rolvaag study spots, I often make it a game to seek out a completely new one with every visit. It’s like a real-life choose-your-own-adventure game.
I consider the library to be the heart of St. Olaf’s campus, but it also holds a special place in my own. Rolvaag has been a quiet but comforting witness to my growth as a college student in ways that no other academic building has. When I first met my SOAR group on the patio steps just outside it, Rolvaag watched as I began to sniffle then sob relentlessly through my leaders’ spiel about the OLE Core, campus rules, and how our meal plans worked. As my first final exam, chemistry, crept closer and closer, Rolvaag held its tongue as I waited to cram a semester’s worth of bonds and dots — and whatever acids and bases were — until just a few days before the test, knowing how valuable this lesson would be for me later on. As I slowly found my footing, my people, and my interests, Rolvaag seemed to smile at me through the sweet sunbeams that often stream through the bookshelves on a Saturday morning. While you don’t ever have to decide on a favorite building at St. Olaf, it’s my hope that your years on the Hill will lead you to discover a multitude of safe spaces — in whatever forms they may take on — that make you feel something similar.
Vera Sablak is from Concord, Mass. Her majors are art history and biology.