Alright, raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten trapped inside Sterling Library.
Look! So has that guy sitting on the other side of the common room! Go talk to him about it. You’ll both feel better about yourselves.
You know the feeling. You emerge from the stacks, clutching your books, overwhelmingly thankful to see daylight again and enormously embarrassed that you’ve just spent 20 minutes trying to find the way out. Everyone knows your secret. Everyone is looking at you. You might as well have just peed your pants.
“But I’m a Yalie!” your panicked inner voice cries. “Yalies have to be pros at the library! Yalies have to have the place memorized! LC collection PQ-PZ books are on 2M. Okay good. Still got it. Be cool. Act like nothing happened.”
Let’s all swallow our pride for just a sec and admit to this fact: the very same brilliant scholars who haul piles of books out of SML daily consistently find themselves seeking the way out of the first-floor stacks like rodents who’ve been dumped in some sort of maze.
I don’t mean to insult you and your new common room buddy. I feel strongly that those of us who have fallen prey to this labyrinth of a library are not at fault. We may look stupid weaving through the carrels and wandering around scary back hallways. And we may feel stupid when we have to call security from some dark, deserted vestibule.
But, my friends, we are not the stupid ones.
First of all, why do there have to be two elevator shafts? Why can’t we get to the mezzanine levels from the main elevator? Just when you feel awesome for even FINDING level 2M — you have to take the little staircase up from the second floor, in case you’re still unclear — you’re shot down when you get back in the elevator and wind up disoriented after the elevator spits you out in entirely foreign territory on the first floor.
But congratulations for simply being on floor 1 at this point. The other day I accidentally pressed both 1M and 1MB before I saw just plain 1. I had to stop all three times. And I felt dumb. And what does MB even mean, anyway? No other floor has an MB level.
But that was me. You’re on floor 1 still, although you’re totally disoriented. And to make matters worse, there are several doors marked “Exit” with big, red exit-signs in the first floor stacks. Don’t let these big, flashy, conventional “exit” signs tempt you. They may look like every other legitimate “exit” sign you’ve ever seen, but you’re a fool if you fall for their seductive ways.
Instead, you’re gonna want to find the crappy piece of red, eight by eleven construction paper that has “Exit” printed on it in unprofessionally small font. This sign will be taped to the door which is, alarmingly, the only door that can lead to your salvation.
And when you’ve gone through this exit, there are more challenges to come. Two more doors lie ahead of you. You’ve now instilled your trust in the dinky red signs, so the powers-that-be have hung one on each of these doors. On the left-hand door (which is the one I always instinctively try to walk through) a red sign says, “Use other door.” On the right-hand door a sign says, “Exit Here.” So you exit. Then take a left, walk behind the circulation desk, take a right to walk past the stacks entrance, and tada! You’re free!
(Those exclamation points were sarcastic.)
Should it be this complicated?
Don’t we have enough to stress out about when we go to the library?
We should be dealing with weightier concerns like, “Will someone else have checked out the books I need?” or “Will I ever have time to write this paper?” or “I hope I don’t accidentally find some couple doing it in the Stacks!”
We shouldn’t have to wonder whether we’ll ever be able to see our friends and family again.
There has to be a better means of directing library traffic. Like those cool blue paws they spray on the sidewalk for Bulldog Days.
But for now, those of you who are bibliotechnically challenged like I am, remember: There’s never any shame in asking for directions.
Liz Kinsley wanted to write her bio but she is trapped in the stacks. With Dr. Phil McGraw.