Thursday, May 19, 2005

On Lost Friends

NYC Public Library

I'm not a big fan of libraries. There is a great deal of irony in choosing libraries to loathe considering that I love books-- it's as if I like trees but hate forests. Bookstores are fine, its just libraries I have a problem with.

It may be my inability to return a book on time. Calendars, planners, and bright colored messages on the back of my head do not seem to help the inevitable late fees. I discovered long ago that buying a book is a cheaper option.Or it could be the libraries itself. Places that demand whispered voices -- like funerals, china shops and libraries -- are frightening and stressful. I can't seem to get in or out of one without setting off an alarm and bringing unwanted attenion to my general nervousness.

Most of all I fear the quiet wrath of the librarian. The cold stare that tacitly disapproves of my book choice, study habits or inability to understand the catalog system is far worse that any screaming reprimand I could receive. I live in fear of sneezing, coughing or breathing too loud. But then, my educational career has forced me to deal with my library phobia, as they house the information I need to gain the powerful student curreny of good grades. Business school gave me no choice in that matter. It was not only, expected but demanded that I makes use of the annals of research printed and bound for my benefit.

I went begrudgingly and only when it was absolutely imperative. After several personal prep talks I even worked up the courage to ask one of the many librarians staring at me in condemnation a question or two. No one tried to tackle me when I brought in coffee or a cookie and an alarm only sounded once in my presence. Slowly, the library and I were becoming acquaintances, not quite friends just yet, but cordial colleagues with a common purpose - academic success.

Then it happened. An early morning fire at the school, the final weekend of spring break closed the library for the rest of the semester. The library was not harmed by the fire itself, but by the measures requires to put the blaze out. A friend who would refer to herself as a "bad catholic" happened to uncharacteristically attend mass the day beore the pope died and now feels she may have been the last nail in the coffin. Upon hearing this story, I fear that the my newfound comfort in the library had somehow caused its demise.

In truth, most of us are online junkies anyway -- we prefer to do out internet searches in the library -- surrounded by old-school hard copies reminding us of how much harder our predecessors had to work. Still there is a sense of loss.

My new experience with the library remains incomplete -- it's the same feeling as when you start dating a school mate just a little too late, too close to summer. What will the fall semester bring? Will I confidently walk in, without setting off alarms and successfully research?Or am I destined to remain a connoiseur of online databases. unware of what to do when the internet access fails?.

In the meantime you can find me clicking pictures outside libraries - close to them, but afraid to go in.
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