“I hope my backsweat isn’t damaging my laptop,” I think as my feet push the pedals. I rid this worry by reminding myself that the sweat is probably less damaging than the bumpy ride. I park my bike without a lock, and then walk through two doors. I’m greeted by a burst of air conditioning, which is a much better welcome than a forced smile and “hello.”
The local library. A home to books that loves having company over. People can relax, loiter, or learn. I notice how the books far outnumber the people, but they don’t make a big stink about it. Actually, the books appear happy to outnumber the people, that way there are plenty of them to go around.
I’m fresh out of college, meaning I’m currently stuck at home and looking for full-time jobs. I’m aware of the tough market. Having witnessed it first-hand, I’m more than well aware of the effects of the “Great Recession” and its nasty byproducts of long-term unemployment, stress, and general hopelessness. That’s just a sampling of the all-you-can-hate buffet this time period has opened up. Money is tighter than a supermodel’s waistline, so I’m happy these books don’t expect a fee for entering and using their space.
My inner monologue churns up counterarguments. What purpose do libraries serve besides acting as a surrogate room to my house? Or a quick, cool stop during this scorching summer noon? There’s no question too challenging for Google, and certainly no article or book inaccessible through the internet. If I had a tablet or eBook reader, I’d have stacks worth of these books condensed into a readable series of 1s and 0s. It would be so convenient. Those readers can store hundreds of books in a size thinner and lighter than even a regular paperback.
These thoughts fade into the background when I find a study nook. A nice little space to put my laptop, plug my charger into an outlet, and start concentrating on work. I look around and notice other people around my age doing the same thing. I’m pleasantly surprised others in my generation appreciate this space. I need to spend my time and energy wisely to make things happen, to create the future I want. Now is the time for focused effort. The silence and peace offered by the library is a privilege I’m rarely granted at home. A trip to the House of Books is my productive escape.
During the gaps in my job search in which I’m forced to wait for a response, I write. I write and write and write. First and foremost, I do it because I love it. It’s what I’m about. But I saddle on more practical afterthoughts such as “it looks good when applying for jobs,” “it keeps me busy,” “it lets me stay creative” and a host of other retro-justifications. An important ally to writing is reading. The relationship between the two is as naturally reciprocal as looking into a mirror and feeling sexy; you just can’t have one without the other.
The library is a place I can check out any of the hundreds of books with the swipe of a card. For free. It’s like buying an all-in-one package of knowledge, insight, inspiration, stimulation, advice, and entertainment for the sweet, sweet price of nothing. I can explore the best nonfiction and fiction work of some of the best minds to ever pass through the world. Learning shouldn’t stop after graduation, which is why I appreciate a place that supports my continuing personal education.
In a world of partial attention and constant distraction, there is a meditative advantage to picking out a book and reading it without having the option to switch among tabs of social media websites, email, random videos, and various How To and Top Ten articles. This library has books upon books that offer new views on society, behavior, economics, politics, family, friendship, identity, struggle, romance, laughter, and all of the other topics that many humans can never stop wondering about.
And to physically touch a book, smell it, and turn the page provides a form of feedback that’s just not easily mimicked by scrolling and clicking on a computer or phone.
Twenty-somethings seem to have an insatiable urge to figure out how to best live their life. Nobody wants to be bored. Nobody wants to regret their past. Nobody wants to be sitting in a cubicle at age 40 and have a startling realization that they would rather be stomping berries in a farm. This is the time when most of my peers and I want to plant and begin cultivating the seeds of a happy, fulfilling life.
“Wow this air conditioning is nice,” I yawn. This local library is a pale resemblance to the one at my college. It’s much smaller, less populated by studious souls, and less likely to host a caffeine-induced heart attack during finals week. But there are still people of all ages enjoying it. There are children, teenagers, twenty-year-olds, and others who might be offended if I guessed their ages. Speaking of caffeine, I could use a cup of coffee for a nice jolt. I feel like I’m about to—
I’ve drifted into sleep at this study cubicle. So much for a productive escape…