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In the morning light on a cold day (indicated by leaf-less trees and the distant people walking toward the library while wearing winter coats), clouds against a blue sky cast shadows on the columned front of the library. Multi-paned windows reflect the blue of the sky above a few arched entrances. In the morning light on a cold day (indicated by leaf-less trees and the distant people walking toward the library while wearing winter coats), clouds against a blue sky cast shadows on the columned front of the library. Multi-paned windows reflect the blue of the sky above a few arched entrances.
Campus & Community

Room to think

A tale told in photos: Thompson Library welcomes Buckeyes from morning to night. 

If Ohio Stadium is our ’Shoe, we can consider Thompson Library our thinking cap. After all, this home on the Oval helps us learn, investigate and contemplate, usually for longer than the day’s light lasts. The library’s magic is in how it can be whatever Buckeyes need — contemporary or traditional, elegant or functional, a place to work alone or together. 

Editor’s note: Some photo groups in this story scroll sideways. On a desktop or laptop, use the scrollbar under the photos to move them.

In a cozy scene, a young man kicks back in an arm chair, his legs propped on a coffee table, while holding his cellphone and sipping from a travel mug. Through the window in front of him, he looks down on several blocks of a snow-covered campus. Red brick buildings stand out and morning light creates a modular shadow pattern on the wooden wall beside him.

At the top of the 11-floor tower, a quiet study room affords visitors incredible views of campus and miles of Columbus skyline. Sophomore Jamie Harmon, an electrical and computer engineering major, found one of the best seats by arriving early on this cold day before winter finals. 

This photo shows the empty first floor of the library before doors open. The mood is calm and expectant. Shown from far away, a worker operates a waist-high floor polishing machine. The ceiling is a skylight more than four above him, just beyond the photo frame, but the dimmer-than-usual lighting is evidence it’s still dark outside. Lights shine from the floors of stacks and reflect off the hard floor.
In a big hall, books line the distant wall and low shelves that run along a table as long as a handful of traditionally-sized dining room tables put together. The only person in the room is an older white man straightening one of the wooden, straight-backed chairs. Art-deco style lamps sit in the center of the table.
Sitting in armchairs in an atrium above the first floor facing each other, two young blond women smile and chat. Their body language says they’re good friends, and a closed laptop and face-down cellphone sit on a small knee-high table between them. Four floors of the glass-fronted stacks, revealing scores of book-filled shelves, make up the photo’s background. The scene is modern and brightly lit, showing the optimistic feeling of Thompson Library.
A bronze statue on a wooden pedestal shows a man’s face and chest, shoulders and top of biceps. He looks straight ahead with a serious, perhaps even studious, expression. His forehead and nose—where the statue gets touched a lot—are brighter than other parts, creating dramatic differences, such as on the wrinkles of his forehead. A student seen from behind pats the statue’s head as she walks in. She wears a long winter coat, a backpack slipped over both shoulders and her black hair pulled into a bun.

The brighter areas on this bust of William Oxley Thompson, Ohio State’s fifth president, show where visitors pat it most often on their way in or out. Taking part in the good luck ritual is Safa Mohamed, a junior double majoring in finance and political science. 

Deep in some of the stacks, a young Black woman, with her hair twisted into a tall stylish bun on top of her head, reaches above her head to shelf a large book. She holds another in her other hand and, though frozen in this moment by the photo, appears graceful in doing her work. Her sweatshirt says “pink” in big capital letters.
A librarian, an older white woman with neat, shoulder length hair, leans forward to touch a historical photo lying on an open book as students stand around her her holding clipboards and devices. Two can be seen: Right of the librarian, a young white woman has thick rimmed glasses. Left of the librarian, a young Black woman wears a hijab and thin, wire-framed glasses. Both students seem intrigued.

Instructional Services Coordinator Lisa Iacobellis ’78, ’81 MA, ’17 PhD helps a Knowlton School landscape architecture class explore historical photos and drawings. 

Inside a small meeting room with a screen on the wall, three young white women sit at a table, each with an open laptop and a grin, as they talk. They seem to be enjoying the work they are doing together.
This photo, taken from high above students studying hard at long tables, shows—through tall windows—some the Oval’s iconic paths driving through the snow-covered grass sections. The light from the windows reflects off the floor and lamps here and there glow.
A young Black woman turns the corner between two flights of an open staircase. She wears wide-legged jeans, her hair so long her ponytail passes her waist, and headphones that match the color of her sweater. The stone steps of the stairs seem to float in air as the staircase is built alongside several floors that circle the first-floor lobby or entrance space, with empty space between the risers and glass sides that rise just above the metal handrail.
A young Black woman sits at a table working on her laptop. She is photographed from above, and the color of her sweatshirt matches her notebook. Just as prominent in the photo is the floor, which has words in lines, some that the student could naturally read and every other line that runs the opposite way. If she turned 180 degrees in her chair, she could read those lines. Bolder words that stand out include people, patience, place and over.
A closeup look at books on shelves show three rows of them and hands (with chipped nail polish) sliding one book into place.
A white man in winter coat and hat focuses as he pages through a book in the stacks (which means he is standing between two closely placed rows of shelves, each chock full of research books). He is near the glass wall that looks into the main lobby. Five thick books sit in a stack at his feet.
A crowded room in the library has modern, tall and slim lights—at least 20 of them—hanging from the ceiling; walls made of glass paneled windows or sleek wood and columns; and a floor covered in embossed text. The letters are hand-sized. More students than can be counted study at sleek tables in plastic rolling chairs.

The Buckeye Reading Room on the second floor is one of the most popular rooms among visitors. Monday through Thursday — peak days for Thompson — an average of 7,000 to 8,000 people use the library. 

A bearded Black man, with feet propped up and his laptop on his thighs, focuses on working on his laptop. He wears big headphones, but they’re pushed above his ears, onto his temples.
Photographed from directly above, a Black student crossed the library’s lobby floor. It is composed of large slabs of a material that appears to be granite or marble speckled in tones of the same gray shade. Inset in two pieces of matte metal—one under the student’s feet and another behind the student—are other types of language.
In a dimly lit photo, darker silhouettes of three people can be made out. On the light-colored wall, a neon sign hangs at throat-height of two silhouettes beside it. It says “whole.”
With the light inside the library dimmed because it’s dark outside (the library’s huge skylight provides much natural lighting), four young Asian men sit at a square table, each engrossed in his own laptop.

After the sun sets, the library dims, creating an even cozier feel for students studying late. From left are seniors Yiming Cheng, Tianhao Zang, Zhuozi Xie and Yuyang Pan. 

A white man with wavy hair and thick-rimmed glasses pages through a volume that’s as tall as his torso. The content is music notes with words in another language.
Four rows of worn books on shelf show how age can enhance how interesting books can be. About 100 volumes are here, all barely taller than the hand of the person who is removing one. Many seem to be leather bound, with intricate embossing. No title is visible.
A white student in a sweatshirt, khakis and ballcap over red-orange-dyed hair speaks into a walkie-talkie while on a lower floor of the library. The lights are all on, but no one else can be seen.
The light outside the library is dim, indicating the sun has begun to set. Warm lights shine from the windows of the north face of the library. A young white man in a winter coat has rolled a cart to a large metal bin—it’s almost as tall as he is—to collect the books others have returned there.

Senior Nick Madama, an English major, collects books returned to the deposit box. The library lends beyond campus as well: It is the No. 2 lender in a global book exchange. 

Video: A day at Thompson Library in 60 seconds

This photo, taken from high above students studying hard at long tables, shows—through tall windows—some the Oval’s iconic paths driving through the snow-covered grass sections. The light from the windows reflects off the floor and lamps here and there glow.

This minute-long video shows a day in the Grand Reading Room as Buckeyes study for finals.

At night, a student passes by on the Oval side of the library. Only the silhouette of the student can be seen. Lights shining on the building highlight the stately architecture.

Grow a collection

The Ira Aldridge Fund, an endowment inspired by playwright and Ohio State friend Ted Lange (who portrayed bartender Isaac on “The Love Boat”), aims to add underrepresented voices to University Libraries’ performing arts collection.  

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