Libraries are Always Scary the First Time

Whenever I use a library for the first time I’m intimidated. This is how I react in almost any new situation: get scared. But every library has their own way of doing things, some more eccentric than others (not naming names, I want to keep all librarians on my side) and I’m always initially anxious to get it right.

To prepare for my Library of Congress I printed out maps and made a step-by-step list, go to this room and get registered, etc. On top of my first-visit anxiety, I had only four hours to do what I needed to do and I couldn’t waste precious seconds standing in a hall wondering where to go.

I got there all red and puffy because I practically ran from the train station, plus I was dressed for New York and it was HOT. As a result my id picture was the WORST picture of me ever, and that just made me more anxious. But in a few minutes I was holding the actual papers I’d come to see, not copies, and I was thrilled. Some libraries make you wear gloves and I hate wearing gloves. It takes some of the excitement away. Oh God, this is sounding perilously close to you-know-what, but the sense of touch is so important and you want nothing separating you from the thing in your hands.

Next week, the Houghton Library at Harvard!! Which I’ve never been to so of course I’m terrified. What am I scared of? That the library will be staffed by serial killers?

This is the window of a liquor store on Hudson Street. What’s the deal with the pigs?

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

4 thoughts on “Libraries are Always Scary the First Time

  1. I think some of my new library anxiety has to do with hoping I won’t be disapointed. Hoping that the trip will be worth it, and that I will find just what I was looking for.

  2. I only got four or five words out of my Library of Congress visit! I found a nice letter from Louis Comfort Tiffany to a conductor I wrote about, which has a few usable words. THAT’S IT.

  3. He is a way distant cousin of mine. We share a common ancestor in Humphrey Tiffany who was killed by lightning while riding a horse.

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