Growing up, I had always imagined penning my stories in the library. I’m, of course, talking about the storybook image of the library. It’s the one with towering stacks of books, ominous statues and a blissful quiet which, can only be found at monasteries tucked away in the mountains. However, when I visit the actual library, I have a far less exciting experience.
I’ve frequented many libraries in search for the perfect writing spot. This includes enormous ones teeming with rooms adorned with walls of books, statues and art. Small ones with shitty lighting, bad carpeting and a smells that I couldn’t identify. During my visits, I drank crappy library coffee, I brought lunch, I used the free Wi-Fi, and even rearranged seating. Despite all of that, something was still missing.
Oh yeah, the quiet!
For the sake of this post, I’m going to go out on a limb and say libraries invented “quiet”. It must be true because, I remember libraries being quiet places at one point. The image of the angry librarian shushing loud patrons had long been a staple in movies, TV and even books. So, it isn’t completely incorrect of me to assume the library would provide a quiet solace to write. Of course, if anyone challenged that, the angry librarian would surely protect the quiet.
Scenes of the angry librarian shushing loud patrons have long been a staple in movies, TV and even books.
Today; however, it seems the library has relaxed their attitudes on quiet. The inclusions of children’s libraries, movie rentals and lax rules on cell phones & video chatting have given patrons a new reason to challenge the quiet we once enjoyed. The angry librarian has lost the battle for quiet and now provides tech support. That is, of course, when she isn’t weeping in the stacks as she remembers the days when she wielded the power of “shhh“.
The angry librarian has lost the battle for quiet and now provides tech support.
It seems we’ve passed the point of quiet at the library as well. Sadly, we are losing more places in the battle for quiet. To combat the noise, I suggest investing in a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Every writer should have at least one pair and carry them everywhere! Aside from that, how can a writer be productive at the library?
Here are some tips to making the most of your library trip:
- People watch – Need character inspiration? Sit at a library and just watch the people around. Does the guy across from you yell into his phone? Does the woman behind you have a Big Mac in her bag waiting to make everyone nauseous? How do others react? Take it all in, because you can’t make this shit up!
- Get inspiration – It might be shocking to realize, but libraries have books! If you need some inspiration for that stalled novel, walk around the library. Surrounding yourself with the works of others should bring the inspiration you need. It’s similar to walking around Barnes and Nobel, except you don’t get that feeling you’ve contributed to the death of the physical bookstore by leaving without buying something.
- Do some research – Writing books love to talk about “unplugging” while writing. However; if you need to research something the internet can be your best solution, but it isn’t the only one. Avoid wasting time in the never-ending “internet hole” by taking a research trip to the library. Sure, it will take longer, but getting out can be good for you and your novel.
- Finally, lower your expectations – Don’t plan on getting that entire first draft out in an afternoon at a library. Settle for a few pages, a whole chapter if you’re really lucky.
In closing, most libraries are terrible for finding that quiet solace. However, if used in the proper context, libraries can help you on your novel journey. While you’re there, you might just find that new quirky character your novel needed… she’s the one eating the Big Mac.