What is it about sitting in a library reading a book, doing research, or searching the stacks for texts and books to read, perusing the covers of the books, thumbing through pictures in the books, running fingers across the books on the shelves? The pervading quiet, the smell of paper, the click of keyboards as patrons type on their laptops, the whir of fans overhead, the turning of pages all contribute to a serenity to that does not compare to reading at home or tele-commuting in a coffee shop.
Today I sit in the local university library surrounded by cubbies where students are hooked into the wifi system, listening through earphones to music or watching YouTube while studying for exams or writing papers. It’s quiet except for the squeaking of chairs as some students shift in the seats or jiggle back and forth anxiously. The soda machine hums and the occasional chink of change falling with the odd bottle of soda or water falling down the chute into the slot gently disturbs the atmosphere, but all around is peaceful.
One thrill for me is the anticipation of finding books that I need in the stacks. Gone are the days of the little file drawers with thousands of index cards containing the information for books. Today, the card catalog is on a computer, which requires a few clicks and proper spelling for titles and authors. Using the call numbers, I hunt through the stacks to find the books that I need for the paper I am writing. When I find a book, I glance at the table of contents to see if any remotely relevant information is there. I peruse the other books on the row to see if anything catches my attention. I pile the books I find together and lug them to the table where I am working.
As I sit back in the chair and separate the books, I prepare to immerse myself in a world of wonder and information that I can probably find easily by a few rapid clicks on my keyboard, but something about reading the information in the books lures me.
I set up my area with books, a pen, a pad of paper, my laptop, my phone, and, of course, the ever-present cup of coffee. And, let the research begin. I read endless amounts of information, some of which is helpful, but much of which I will store up for a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit or lively conversation at a party. I’ll be able to say something fascinating like: Did you know that Edward Taylor used strained metaphors in his poetry? Did you know that George Herbert had a hot temper?
But wait! My phone screen has lit up. Who could that be? I cannot talk on the phone now because I’m in the quiet zone, but no problem, I can text an answer back to my sister who is on assignment in Georgia. While I wait for her response, I check out a round or two of Panda Pop. Now, my Twitter feed is lighting up. I scroll through the tweets, and after I do, I will see what is happening on Instagram where my grandkids always have lots of fun pictures of their adventures to the park or the boardwalk. Oh, yes, and while I am at it, I will take a quick look at the daily deals on Amazon.com.
I need to get back to work, but before I do, I take a look at the time on my laptop. Yikes! I’ve been in the library for forty minutes, and I have a forty-five minute only parking spot in visitor parking which I need to vacate or I will get an $80 ticket, or so the security guard informs me. (This is the same university that has special areas for student crossing. See the previous blog for that topic.)
I plan to go home to work on my paper, but so many distractions are there. I know that I will be running the dishwasher, feeding the dog, vacuuming, and whatever other things come into my head. I really must find more time to spend in the library.