Library Lessons
Hit the books!

The building was dark and quiet. I could hear the distinct slap of my shoes against the tile as I walked down the hallway toward the deserted library. The stillness around me was a bit eerie.

During the week, the Hall of Administration is generally quiet, but the building still feels full. You can smell freshly brewed coffee in the air. You can hear the clacking of fingers typing on keyboards and the quick steps of people on a mission to get something done. Today, however, the building felt empty.

It was a Sunday afternoon in late October, and I was walking down the unlit hallway in the Hall of Ad because I was determined to get some research done for one of my term papers due in November. In a recent Assembly, we had been admonished to take advantage of the expansive library in the Hall of Ad. There were hundredsof books in that library, our instructor told us, giving us access to a wealth of information that, all too often, we completely overlooked.

His admonition made me think about the process I go through when writing a paper. I start my papers early enough to spend a good amount of time on each one of them, but I also rely heavily on Internet sources. I use a website far more regularly than a book, and if I want to use a book, I find a pdf version of the book online. That way, I can use the ctrl-find function and find exactly what I am looking for in two seconds rather than having to comb through an actual book to find a good bit of material. The Internet is just so much more convenient.

After that Assembly, however, I realized that I had subconsciously succumbed to a dangerous mindset. I had begun to think that a surface-level amount of research—just doing what was required—was good enough. This made me question my work ethic. If I was unwilling to put some elbow grease into researching for a term paper—something relatively little and unimportant when you look at the big picture—how could I prove to God that I would work hard at any responsibilities He would give me in the future?

Besides the habitual laziness I caught myself in, I also realized that I had a terribly ungrateful attitude toward what I had been given. Here I was within a short walk of a beautiful library, and most of the time I simply ignored it. I took it for granted.

I determined to change this mindset. To start off, I decided to devote a Sunday afternoon to the Hall of Ad library, where I would do nothing but research.

After walking down that dark hallway and setting my backpack down at an unused table within the library, I started to roam around. I did not know the precise location for books about my paper topic, so I decided to scan each shelf until I found what I was looking for. As I walked between the shelves, I was overwhelmed by the vast number of books and the range of subjects they covered. From rubber ducks to classic English literature to the history of ancient Egypt—there were books about anything and everything. More than once, I grabbed a book off a shelf that had absolutely nothing to do with my paper topic and thought, Wow, this looks so interesting! I want to read this book! Then I remembered that I was researching a specific topic—I didn’t have time for that interesting book. A twinge of regret hit me each time I put one of those books back on the shelf. Why have I never come here in my free time?

Eventually, I found a book that I thought might contain some information I could use. As I pulled it off the shelf, a wave of old-book smell came wafting toward me. I opened the book and took a deep breath. Mmm, I love the smell of old books.

As I looked around the section where I had found that first book, I discovered even more books that I could use. The more books I found on my subject, the more excited I became. I pulled them off the shelf and stacked them in my arms as quickly as I could. When my arms were filled to their capacity, I staggered back to my table and set them down with a loud oof. Then I sat down and began my research.

As I was recording the information I found in these books, I was shocked at how much I actually enjoyed the process of researching for my term paper. I was used to staring at a computer screen for hours, forgetting to blink and realizing suddenly that my eyes were dry, red and itchy—the same, bland process over and over. But researching at the library was nothing like clicking on a link to the Encyclopedia Britannica and scrolling past three ads to get to the actual text. It was like going on an adventure. It was like treasure-hunting. I found books that were hundreds of years old with yellow pages and crinkles around the edges. I was perpetually enveloped by that musky, sweet smell of well-used books. The words seemed to jump off the pages as I read them. I learned much more than I would have had I done my usual, casual Google search. And the more I learned, the more motivated I was to dig even further into my research.

This was an important lesson for me to learn for my future term papers, but it also taught me a little bit more about life in general. I realized that this is how life works too: If you are willing to put a little more effort into whatever task you have been given, you will receive more in return. Showing a little friendliness can turn an acquaintance into a lifelong friend. Working harder on the job will cause your boss to trust you and give you more responsibility. Putting effort into your school assignments will benefit you far beyond the good grade you receive for them—it will educate you for life.

Now, when I receive a term paper assignment, I still have a moment of reluctance before beginning the researching process—but the experience I had in the Hall of Ad library that Sunday afternoon taught me to push past that lazy attitude. It taught me to be grateful for the resources I have at my fingertips, and, above all, it taught me to take advantage of them. I have been reaping the benefits ever since.