I had forgotten the palpable silence of an afternoon at a serious library. By serious, I mean the kind that isn’t filled with exuberant children finding their way to the juvenile book section for story time. It isn’t where high school students who arrived with the best research intentions are soon folded into one of the many chatty pockets of socialization occurring behind the stacks. This isn’t the kind of library that offers a community gathering spot for quilters or genealogists. Nor do the study carrels provide a warm, safe napping cocoon for men who spent the night on the streets.
This is a library where “Shushing” takes place if one should be so forgetful as to speak above a whisper. Forget about answering a random phone call. Even the quiet ding of incoming email intrudes upon the quiet. For the record, it isn’t the librarians who serve as the watchdogs for this audible pristine environment. It is the students themselves who are intent on keeping verbal intruders from encroaching on the sacred territory of total immersion in a thought-capturing volume.
I am working from within the glass-walled fishbowl of a study room. It offers a little latitude for a hurried conversation. If the passers-by weren’t too intent on their intended destinations to even glance my way, it would be disconcerting to have total strangers watching me work as if I were a blowfish in a tank.
Today’s experience recalls for me the years when I pursued my own graduate studies, spending countless hours in silent carrels on seemingly forgotten floors of Middleton Library. Unless a dreaded deadline loomed, the hours slid by effortlessly. I would experience a growing quiet excitement as the topics I hunted came into view and I saw ever more clearly the subject I was pursuing.
There is something about being in a serious library that makes me desire to delve deeply into a new subject. The books themselves invite me to follow a trail that will take me ever deeper into the hidden forest of learning. Being in the company of other learners, all intent on their own pursuits intensifies the desire. It is a good and productive feeling to be in the company of others and yet alone with my thoughts.
In a strange way, being in the library reminds me of the value of choosing environments where I will be encouraged simply by the presence of like-minded people. The model they set, not the words they speak, create a thirst for more. It is as true in walking with Christ as it is in other endeavors. It is a reason to go to church. It is a reason to be involved in Christ-centered community. It is the reason we need other believers in our lives.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25