Apr. 2020 | Productivity

4 Productivity Tips for Working at the Library

In honor of National Library Week, I've assembled this list of tips for writers to make the most of their next library trip.

Growing up, I had always imagined penning my novels in the library. I'm, of course, speaking of the storybook image of the library. The one with towering stacks of books, ominous statues and a blissful quiet which one can only find in monasteries tucked away in the mountains. However, when I visit the actual library, my experience is much less exciting.

As someone always on the hunt for perfect writing locations, I’ve frequented my share of libraries. This includes the enormous ones teeming with rooms adorned with walls of books, statues and art. And small ones with bad lighting, poor carpeting and smells that I couldn't identify. During my visits, I tried the crappy library coffee; tested the boundaries of eating while working, used the free Wi-Fi and even rearranged seating. Despite all of that, something was still missing.

Where is the quiet?

For the sake of this post, I'm going to go out on a limb and say libraries For the sake of this post, I will go out on a limb and state that libraries invented "quiet". It must be true because, as a child, I remember libraries being quiet places. The media have also planted the idea in our heads. The image of an annoyed 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 the quiet solace every writer needs. And, if anyone challenged the library’s sacred silence, the librarian would be there to protect and enforce it.

Looking for a quiet place to #write? Check out these 4 #productivity tips for #writing at your local library. Share on X

Today; however, it seems the library has relaxed their stand on quiet. The inclusions of children’s libraries, DVD rentals and lax rules on cell phones and video chatting have given patrons a new excuse to challenge the quiet we once enjoyed. The 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 library is just one of the many places we’ve lost the battle for quiet. Sadly, the list keeps growing. To combat the noise, I suggest investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Every writer should have at least one pair and carry them everywhere they go. That said, can a writer be productive at the library?

Four ways to make the most of your next library trip:

People watch

Need some character inspiration? Visit your local library and do some (ever important) people watching. Does the guy across from you hold his phone upside down to speak into it? Does the woman behind you have a sandwich in her bag and take bites when no one is looking? Take it all in, because you can't make this stuff up!

Get inspiration

It might shock you to realize it, but libraries have books! If you need some inspiration for that stalled novel, walk around the library. Surrounding yourself with the works of others may just bring the inspiration you need to get past that block. It’s kind of like 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 purchasing something.

Do some research

Many writing books suggest "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 a 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.

Manage your expectations

Don't plan on getting that entire first draft out in a single afternoon at a library. Set a daily word count goal and opt for writing a few pages or paragraphs. Remember, many libraries are open seven days a week.

The library may not be what it once was, but if used in the proper context, a library can be a significant help on your novel journey. 

Happy Writing


Lucas Horn

Lucas Horn is a creative designer who is attracted to men and True Crime, a trifecta which profoundly influenced his debut novel, The Midnight Blaze. When he isn't designing or writing, Lucas likes to travel and search for unique writing locations.

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