The relationship I had with libraries right before I got to college was almost non-existent.
When I grew up, the summer library reading competitions were everything. I’d devour books all in hopes of getting the pizza gift card prize at the end of the summer. Everything from A-Z Mysteries to historical graphic novels to Geronimo Stilton, I was reading it. The library functioned as a hub for my exploration as a learner. I was there, in large part with the support of my mom bringing my brother and me all the time.
And then, I got an iPod Touch.
For seemingly the next eight years, whatever for connection and relationship I once had with the library was no more. I no longer wanted to make the visits and I thought I’d rather spend my time playing Temple Run instead of reading the latest Rick Riordan book on Greek or Egyptian mythology. With time, I no longer kept a library card in my tiny wallet with some pocket change, and without living very close, I never wanted to go on my own time. Whenever I did go to my school library, I never thought about it as a space with books, but a space with computers. I came to play anything cool on addictinggames.com, or if I was feeling in a “learning mood,” I’d pop on over to coolmathgames.com.
When I got to middle school, the school library was my refuge, away from all the personal problems I had. I used that space as one where I could isolate myself and think for myself. I treated it in many ways very similar in high school too. I would come in early, sometimes maybe to talk to friends, but I began to find it as space where I could breathe. I continued to spend more time in my public library again as soon as I started driving, going to practice for mock trial and working on group projects with friends. It was just another one of the places where I could work beside my home, and knowing how distracted I got at home, it was always a better situation to be in.
Recently, I’ve begun to rediscover that same excitement and eagerness in being in the library like I once had when I was younger. Yes, I do dread the fact that every single time I lift my head off my pillow I see the Reg (our main library on campus). I wake up to the ominous sight that only exists in the center of this campus, and it is eery. But, I could also say that being able to walk out of my room into the library with Birkenstocks and running into friends at the wee hours of the night are some of those memories I’ll have for the rest of my life.
I’ve developed a new relationship with libraries. For one, working in one has been able to dramatically increase the amount of time I spend physically inside one that gives me the excuse to have to be inside a library. Have I checked out a single book yet? No. But have I begun to appreciate the space with which you can connect with people? Absolutely. The first floor of the library is the space where you see the most bizarre exchanges, mouthwatering food, and the occasional mental breakdown. But amidst all of that, there’s a sort of charm I missed about the library when I was gone for winter break. Yes, you see the same faces, the same things every single week, but no matter how many weird or even disheartening experiences you have, you just keep coming back.
As I finish writing this blog post in the library, I just think really about what a real privilege it is, of course, to be a student here and on a campus like this, but more importantly, to have a space like a library where you can be able to study and learn unencumbered. I don’t think anything ever will be quite like a college library, but when you’re in an environment where you can be yourself, almost sometimes a bit too vulnerable or easy to talk to when you’re hours into a study session, it allows you to at least for a moment be a new, different yet authentic version of yourself. And that, at its core, is why I love libraries.
Being Noah Tesfaye #116: My New Relationship with Libraries
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