Library Science

Library Science

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

Library Science

It was only the third week of our domestic union, and already I had major doubts about my new roommate. And not just because of the psychedelic unicorn triptych tacked over her bed or the Garfield phone staring at me from her trunk. She was hiding something, I could tell.

I knew for a fact that her first class wasn’t until 11:00 A.M., but she was out the door by nine every morning. With her books. She’d stay out all day, not even showing up for Days of Our Lives, unlike the rest of us who had deliberately designed our schedules around this sacred hour.

I began to speculate about how and where she was spending her time. I knew that she had taken out loans to pay for tuition; maybe she was hanging out at the plasma center—rumor had it they paid you a hundred bucks to donate blood. Maybe she was having an affair with one of her professors. Maybe she’d never signed up for classes and was going to the movies all day. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to know what was up.

“Lori, I was just wondering . . . where exactly do you go all day?”

She didn’t even flinch. “The library.”

The what? What could she possibly be doing in the library all day? We were only freshmen. It’s not like she was writing a thesis or anything. I wasn’t so sure I believed her.

“Can I go with you tomorrow?” I asked, waiting for her to squirm as she was forced to blow her cover.

“Sure,” she said easily.

So that’s where we went. At first glance, it looked exactly like what I’d expected: a bunch of people sitting around reading and being systematically shushed. But upon closer inspection, I realized the library is a lot like one of those “Magic Eye” pictures that hypnotize mallgoers everywhere— if you look hard enough, you discover there’s a lot more to it. For one thing, it’s an excellent hiding spot.

Imagine this scenario: Last night it seemed like a good idea to use your suitemate’s cherished (but handy) Green Day T-shirt to plug the leak in the toilet tank. Today, you’re slightly less sure. Well, good thing for you the library is always open late. Just drape the tee over your chair, kick back and hit the books. Later, when you sneak the no-longer-incriminating evidence back into your undersized cell, you’ll be home free.

And speaking of free, this is one of the few campus hot spots with no cover charge and no minimum. You can read as much as you want! Study all day! All for the incredibly low price that is music to any college student’s ears: notta (as in notta penny—unless you permanently misplace Moby Dick and have to dig into your precious laundry fund to replace it).

Dreading the weekly bad-news report from Mom? Even if she knows where you are, chances are she won’t page you in the library. Having a hard time losing the geek from your dorm who won’t stop calling since you accidentally made eye contact? You’re as good as lost.

The word “dorm” is definitely not short for “dormant.” That place makes a mosh pit look tame! Phones ringing, stereos blasting, computers humming, video games bleeping, TVs blaring—it’d be easier to think in an arcade. What you wouldn’t give for three minutes of peace and quiet.

Voilà! You’ve come to the right place. Write a letter. Read the newspaper. Skim a few chapters. Or just sit and make like a vegetable. Who cares? Your only purpose is to suck up the divine silence.

It sounds good: “Going to the library.”

Your parents will be impressed. Your professors will be impressed. Your friends will be, well, already there. Of course, the former groups will assume you’re there studying, which you may or may not be doing. It doesn’t really matter, though, since they won’t ever think to ask.

Therefore, the library can become your sanctuary, the place to do whatever it is you feel like doing (excluding, of course, your full-volume Stimpy impression and the Native American war dance you just learned about in history) under the guise of higher education.

Bonus incentive: When you get back to your dorm, your answering machine and e-mail box will both be jammed with messages because everyone knows that people only try to contact you when you’re out.

Not to mention the boy-watching. Granted, there aren’t many on-campus places that aren’t conducive to a rewarding game of I Spy, but the library may be one of the best. Why? Because the guys, like the books, are often categorized by type. Before long, with one quick scan of the room, you’ll be able to determine who’s there to scam, to cram or to find out when and where the next big party is.

If you’re serious about acing your organic-chem final—but aren’t willing to deprive yourself of visual pleasure—plunk your stuff down in the carrel (“library-speak” for private study table) with a clear view of that industrious premed student you’ve noticed lurking around the science building. You’ll get to sneak a few well-deserved peeks, and he’ll be too wrapped up in mammalian fetal anatomy to notice.

On the other hand, if you’d rather tap into the social scene than analyze the complete works of Ezra Pound, avoid the floors crammed with carrels and go straight to the group-study tables. Not only are you guaranteed not to get a moment’s work done there, you might even wind up with a date.

You can study there, too. Sort of obvious, but some people have mental blocks when it comes to intended use. The library, you see, has a few distinct advantages over some other potential study spots, like, say, your couch or the campus pool. First of all, the required posture in this place is upright. In other words, no “I’ll just stretch out on this extra-quilted mattress and read a few chapters.” Trust me, there’s little risk of drifting off—no matter how boring your English assignment—when you’re propped up in a standard-issue posture-friendly chair. It’s practically proven: Your grades will improve dramatically if you’re awake during the bulk of your study time.

Second, the library has stuff. I mean, sure, it has books. Millions of them, in fact. But in addition to racks of hardbacks, libraries are also jammed with these amazing things called resources, like copy machines, computers, desks, magazines, microfilm and kind, helpful people known as reference librarians (otherwise known as The Ones Who Actually Have Answers).

Yeah, yeah, life is short, and college is shorter. Who wants to spend all that time kissing up to a librarian? I can personally promise you this will not be a waste of your wonder years. Even after your final exam, you’ll probably still hit the library from time to time. You might be looking for a job, filing your taxes or just trying to hunt down a good read. Or maybe you heard Prenatal Pig Guy is studying for his boards or researching which hospitals are looking for brilliant residents with chiseled features. Whatever the case, you can bet you’ll be back inside a library one day soon. Might as well know your way around.

Jenna McCarthy

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