A Day in the Life — Library Shut-In

By: Amy Tatnall

It’s the end of the semester. Stress is in the air. You literally can’t make any sudden movements on campus because it seems like everyone is overtired and strung out on caffeine. Or at least I am. Everywhere I go I see people lugging huge backpacks that seem to contain the entire contents of their life. To me this means one thing, they are heading to the place on campus where the people around them fully understand their pain: the library.

I personally have never been a very productive library worker. For some reason the building just doesn’t seem to hold the same power for me as it does for other people. I always feel as though I’m being less productive than the people around me who seem to be working so intently, and for some unknown reason that simple fact alone stresses me out.

When I step through the doors on the first day of my library power session I brace myself for the feeling of stress that I know will be coming shortly. As I walk around the first floor searching for an empty table I feel as though the people here all know each other and I’m the odd girl out. It’s like a little community and I’m the new girl moving in. Of course, after walking aimlessly around the entire first floor there is nowhere to sit, so I start climbing the steps, trying to find a more welcoming floor.

I find success on the 3rd floor and set up camp. After spreading out my books, booting up my laptop and taking a sip from my to-go coffee mug I’m starting to feel as though I look the part. I’m halfway there. Now to actually get work done…For some reason the extreme quiet of the floor seems mildly unsettling, and as I take a quick scan around me I notice that most people have headphones in. See – they are definitely pros at this. Maybe that is the key to being productive at the library: you have to drown out the overwhelming silence that surrounds you. By this point I don’t have that long until my next class, so I quickly send off a few e-mails so I can atleast say that I accomplished something on my trip. But I actually have. I’ve scouted out a good spot and already uncovered the key to the library – always bring your headphones.

On my next trip through the library doors I walk in like a pro. I stop to grab a quick coffee from the café and then head back to the third floor. I cross my fingers that my same table will be available since, after one visit, I’ve already claimed it as my own. Thankfully it is, and I waste no time in spreading out and making myself comfortable, or at least as comfortable as one can be in those hard wooden chairs. Instead of starting to do my work I become lost in thought about whether or not the chairs are purposefully uncomfortable to keep people from falling asleep and to help them stay focused on their work. How poetic.

After wasting a fair amount of time over this thought I pull myself out of my reverie and get down to work. This time I pull my headphones out of my purse like a champ and plug myself in to full on Pandora bliss. The headphones truly make all of the difference, and with the mellow songs of Regina Spektor filling my head I find myself being sucked into productivity. The next time I check the clock on my computer I am amazed to see that 3 ½ hours have gone by. This library business is powerful stuff!

I have never been the type of person who can work for several hours straight without distracting myself for a few minutes in some counter-productive way. Almost four hours and I haven’t touched my phone, logged onto Facebook or taken some type of obscure Sporcle quiz. I take another scan around the room and feel a strange little bond with all of my fellow library sit-ins. Everybody looks as though they have set up roots and are here to stay for the night, and I’ll be right there with them. I grab one of the many apples that I smuggled from the dining hall for the night and prepare to dive back in for what will hopefully be another couple hours of uninterrupted, productive work. Now that I’ve been sucked into the life of the library I understand what it’s all about: it’s got computers, it’s got food, it’s got coffee and it’s got bathrooms…why would you ever need to leave?


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