Welcome to the chilly cold air of fall! At school here in Tennessee, the air is already frosty and the grass is frozen when you wake up. Time to layer up! Coming from California, I was NOT prepared for it to get this cold so fast.
Here on campus, I’ve spent most of my time outside my dorm trying to get warm in the school library. As a writer and lover of anything that smells like an old story, the library has become one of my favorite places to relax, study, and work. I’ve used my school and public libraries as study spaces for a long time.
There is something different about school libraries though. As you know, most of their books are probably non-fiction. There is usually a research assistant on call to help you out at all times, and there are plenty of study places.
In this post, we’ll talk about how you can utilize your library as a writer and a student.
Whether it’s for a school assignment or your latest story, research is always something you will have to do. I’ve discussed the importance of research before. Check that post out here.
School libraries will have a larger non-fiction selection available to you. As easy as it is to just Google something these days and have your answers in seconds, sometimes a physical copy of a book and some hands-on reading is what you’re going to need. School libraries are designed to help you answer those questions and research effectively.
Most libraries will also be organized by sections or topics. Once you find the general area you’re looking for, it will be easier to find tons of information relating to what you need without scanning shelves aimlessly or Googling for hours to find the crest of an ancient royal bloodline. (You never know.)
In my own writing and research, I’ve used libraries not so much to find specific answers but to familiarize myself with a topic or time period. When I’m going to write about something unfamiliar to me that I want to be able to write about better, I need to read books within the topics or genres that I’m aiming towards. (I’ve even done this for my mermaid fantasy trilogy, reading books about myth and other fictional stories to see what others have done.) Sometimes simply understanding a topic or being familiar with an era or subject is what you really need to write a certain perspective or describe a special setting. Reading books about these times, places, and people can help you create a better idea in your head of what you want to create. Doing so will also make your story more believable and more enjoyable for your readers.
One of the best perks of school libraries is the librarians. Most school libraries will have research assistants, librarians, and student library assistants there to help you. I am working in my school library as a student assistant, and I love helping other students find the books they need and answering their questions. I also enjoy talking to the librarians and answering their questions about my writing.
Librarians are there to help you find the exact book you’re looking for or some books related to whatever topic you require. Some libraries will even have research assistants available to help guide you through the process of researching and finding credible sources. As a writer, help like this can always come in handy.
Any bibliophile knows how magical a library can be. A real lover of stories doesn’t walk through the stacks and see old books. They see stories and history, and characters waiting to tell you about their lives and go on adventures with you if only you would open them up and take a look.
School libraries are built around research and learning. Because of this, you will find more group study areas for tutoring, study groups, etc. This type of environment sometimes makes it easier to focus than in your bedroom or the cafeteria. Most people in the library mind their own business and do their own thing. Study rooms are great if you need that extra level of privacy.
If you venture into the book stacks, you might even find a little spot all of your own. In my school library, I love sitting against the wall between the book stacks where people can’t see me as easily. The only people around to notice you are the characters in the books surrounding you. Whether you’re just there to read, study, or write, finding those little places in your school library will help you focus on your work uninterrupted.
Last year, I spent a lot of time in public libraries to do homework, practice my interpreting, and breathe. When I was living in the trailer with the whole family and the campus was closed because of Covid-19, and I didn’t have great internet access, I needed that safe place to study.
The public library, although often noisy and crowded with the insanity and ruckus noise of middle schoolers, was a place with good reception where I could spend some time away from the tiny trailer and get some writing and homework done. (This is when those study rooms come in handy.)
If you’re like me, it’s difficult to write and immerse yourself in your story with others around to watch you and interrupt. This is why finding those other places to work is crucial.
If you have a library nearby, and you can’t focus at home or wherever it is you write, try it out. If you’ve never used a library for research before, give it a shot. Find that place that works for you, because most of us young writers and college students don’t have our own home offices. Yet. But until then…