Lose Yourself in a Library


Courtesy of Nikoleta Papavasilakis for The Fordham Ram.

The Walsh Family Library is my favorite place on the Rose Hill campus, but not for the reason you may think: I go there to explore. 

Instead of studying, I wander through the shelves, looking at all the books: novels and novellas, encyclopedias and almanacs, leatherbound tomes and battered paperbacks. At least once a week, I allot some time to explore the rows and rows of shelves, silently selecting things that look interesting to read. 

Fordham is often a noisy place, filled with construction and  conversations, music and train whistles. It’s a relief to wander this silent, holy temple to knowledge, interrupted only by the occasional ding of the elevator and soft footsteps on the carpeted floor. 

It often feels like we don’t appreciate how miraculous libraries really are. For most of human history, the majority of people were illiterate, the privilege of learning to read being one that was only afforded to the elites. For those who were lucky enough to know how to read, books were a luxury good, often expensive and difficult to find. Libraries, if they existed at all, were private institutions reserved for the wealthy, barring knowledge behind their gilded walls. 

The public library is perhaps the greatest creation in the history of human civilization. You can walk into a building, with nothing more than some basic identification and borrow whatever books you want. Think about that! Knowledge once reserved for the higher classes is for everyone. The pleasures of literature do not discriminate. 

Yet so many students neglect to take advantage of all the opportunities the library has to offer. The third floor is home to a massive selection of fiction, with books from around the world. Besides literary classics, the library is also home to modern fictions from authors such as Stephen King, Andy Weir and Colson Whitehead. 

Want to learn about a new topic, but don’t have the time to fit in another class? The Walsh Library selection spans an enormous variety of fields, with introductory texts on almost any subject you can think of to name. Whether you want to learn about hypnotism, insomnia, handwriting analysis, nutrition, Ireland or fashion, you are guaranteed to find a section on it in the library. 

If nothing in Walsh Library’s expansive collection sparks your interest, then try the New York Public Library (NYPL). Merely by the virtue of being a New York City student, you qualify for a New York Public Library card, which allows you access to the fourth-largest library collection in the entire world. If you don’t have the time or the energy to make it down to one of the NYPL branches in the Bronx, then you can download the SimplyE app, a NYPL-affiliated service that allows you to borrow ebooks and audiobooks for free. The selection is enormous according to the NYPL website, the library has more than 6 million items circulating in its collections, including books, music and movies. 

Possession of a library card doesn’t extend to literary perks alone. Card owners can also receive “culture passes,” a service that allows you to get tickets to a variety of New York museums for free. Locations include the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Museum, among countless others. While Fordham students already gain free access to certain museums (such as the Met), the culture pass opens up even more of New York’s art and history to members of the Fordham community. 

College is a noisy time, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our lives are so filled with the chatter of other people: our roommates, our friends, our classmates, our professors. Even during downtime, many students prefer to spend their time browsing social media, filling their lives with even more noise. The old cliché that it’s “so loud you can’t hear yourself think,” takes on a new meaning. Our thoughts, opinions and reflections are drowned out in the noisiness that surrounds us. 

The library is a break from all of this chaos. It’s a silent space to contemplate and reflect. There is no “For You” section in libraries. What you want to read, to learn, to enjoy is entirely up to you. It’s a place to take a break from all the noise that blankets the chaotic world around us, curl up in an armchair and lose yourself in a good book. 

In my time at the Ram, I’ve seen a lot of things recommended to Fordham students: movies, music, museums. I’d like to add my two cents to the list. Over the next month, go to a library. Go alone, when you have some time nothing hanging over your head, nowhere to rush off to. Find a book you think you would enjoy not because you need it for a class, or because all of your friends are reading it.

Read for the sake of reading, and enjoy everything the library has to offer.