Growing up, my favorite place on earth was the library. Not just because of story time, but because there were piles and piles of books for me to read. I consumed books like others consumed food, or perhaps even air or water. Without books, I wilted.
In college, I would occasionally hide in the library -- it was a quiet place to read and think and sometimes write. This was before computers ruled the world -- they were just there as aids to help you find things. (And also, it was where the Tallahassee Free-Net computers were located.) By the time I got to law school, I could see the evolution. Books were becoming disfavored; computer research was the way of the future. And the library? I couldn't study there -- there was too much talking and gossiping. I had to go to the med school if I wanted undisturbed peace and quiet.
Nowadays, I spend almost no time in libraries. We have a small library in the office where I do a little bit of research, but almost everything I need is available on my computer. At home, I have a large number of books -- not quite a library, but perhaps the beginnings of one -- and when I want something new, I go to the bookstore or order it to be delivered.
This brings me to the fact that, for school, I have to write a research paper, which, as it turns out, requires research. And so, this morning, I headed out to the library. First of all, I had forgotten that Georgetown plays football, so I was surprised to find that there was a game today. I was even more surprised to see how small their football games are. But I digress: I parked and walked up the hill to the library.
The library is no longer the quiet refuge of my childhood. It is a noisy place. People talk, slam their computers shut, type with purpose. I used a public computer to search the catalog for the books and articles I needed, writing notes by hand in a spiral bound notebook. I was the only one doing such things. I am a dinosaur.
I was there for a while, but then, all of a sudden, a woman with short blond hair, looking to be my age, sat down at the computer next to me. She slammed her stuff around. Her cell phone rang at least three or four times, in a loud techno music ringtone that angered me. She typed like she was trying to kill the keyboard. She read things on the screen out loud. She also had this weird thing where she kept smacking herself in the abdominal region, five or six times in a row, then would stop, and then a minute or so later, would do it again.
I had to get out of that fucking weirdness.
I finished what I was doing as best as I could. I emailed myself the articles I found online, and went all the way downstairs to the area of the library where they keep the books on religion. It was a dark and musty smelling basement with no signs of life. I quickly figured out why: that section is only open during regular business hours on Mondays through Fridays.
And so, defeated, I trudged back upstairs, straight to the help desk, and told them of my dilemma. They looked at my list of books -- five -- and told me that they would try to get me any of them that were not designated as "Library Use Only." It would take a few minutes. I decided to go to the coffee shop to grab a drink. I have never seen anything like it before: a coffee shop, noisily playing indie music, in the middle of a library. I then looked around. There were almost no books. They are archaeological relics, hidden in the cavernous subbasements where no one is allowed to go.
I managed to check out two of the five books, and raced home. I am hoping that I don't have to go back anytime soon.