I brake for the Rock – Happy 50th Anniversary!

Cake in Rock

This article is written in honor of the Rock’s 50th anniversary. You can submit your own Rock memories here.

Thinking back on freshman year, I realized the most important events are now stored in my head in cinematic snippets. My first trek up College Hill and the sudden glimpse of Carrie Tower. The slow walk through Faunce and the unexpected breathtaking beauty of the Main Green. Parading through the Van Wickle Gates with the bell tolling in the distance and people cheering. These moments are firmly entrenched in my mind, and will probably become even more cherished as time goes by. However, there is another equally important memory from my freshman year that I had almost forgotten, until now: the first time that I saw the Rock.

The small, gray building seemed quite friendly and welcoming compared to its fellow libraries. As a nervous first year, I was quite intimidated by the looming, concrete SciLi with its Brutalist architecture. I was also secretly afraid that if I got locked in one of the higher floors at night, no one would hear my cries. The John Carter Brown and John Hay libraries were far too majestic for my uncouth freshman self; I couldn’t even imagine crossing their sacrosanct thresholds. The Rock, however, seemed to practically beckon to me. So on a whim, the very day I first laid eyes on it, I decided to give it a visit. I climbed up the steps, taking two at a time, pushed through the revolving doors and found myself standing in the lobby. As I looked around, a big smile spread over my face. Seeing the large comfy armchairs, the polished tables, and the air of calm and quiet, I knew I had found my refuge from the noise and turbulence of college.

I spent that first visit admiring a variety of aspects of this cherished building. This included the H.P. Lovecraft exhibition, the sumptuous Finn Reading room, the SciFi Digital Scholarship Lab, and the unique view of Providence architecture that the Rock offered. Before leaving, I picked up a book from the ‘popular reads’  shelf, and as I walked back to my dorm in the darkness, felt a warm glow of contentment.

From then on, I returned to the Rock whenever I could. I began to spend more and more time there with each visit. I often sat still for hours, ensconced in the red arm chairs, reading about the adventures of Gerald Durrell or sailing with pirates on the open sea with Robert Louis Stevenson. I slowly learned the tricks of finding the exact location of a book I wanted (with the help of our super friendly librarians, of course). Armed with the reference number of the desired book, I would go from one floor to the other, walking quietly through the dark aisles. And I know I’m totally geeking out here, but seeing those innumerable rows made me realize the enormity of the sum of human knowledge to which we have access here. The musty smell of books, their yellowed pages, the archaic Brown insignia, and the aura of wisdom that each book shelf seemed to emanate made wandering in the Rock surreal. I often felt as though I was traipsing back in time, or at least in back to a place where time moves differently. The moment I stepped into the Rock, it was as if the world outside was suspended. Alright, definitely geeking out now. 

But the Rock is not only about getting good books or relaxing in fluffy armchairs; it is also temple of focus. It is a place where a confused, panicking undergraduate can find solace and actually get some work done. Its dimly lit basement was the battleground where I waged a week long war with Calculus. Though the going was tough, I was buoyed by the writings left by previous Rock dwellers and eventually emerged victorious (though a bit scruffy). The Rock has saved me countless other times, as well. A few examples include when I was done with finals and so bored that I checked out (and read) six books, or when I needed to meet a tight deadline and found an entire floor to myself on which I was able to write a ridiculously good decent paper. The list goes on…

I guess what I’ve been trying to say this whole time is that the Rock is not just a building or a library – it is also a friend. A friend who happens to be celebrating its 50th birthday.

So happy 50th to you, Rock. May you have many, many successful centuries ahead of you.

Graphic created by Arely Diaz-Loza.

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