Research Library–a Dangerous Spot?

A research library can be more dangerous than you think.

I, for one, have felt my life potentially in danger while visiting three.

Let this be a warning to you. Researchers may look nerdy and pale, but behind our flashing glasses we could be superheroes.

Here are three tales.

A Midwest Research Library.

I spent a week there, scanning documents and photos.

I’ve never lived in the Midwest and am unused to extreme weather in the summertime.

But it caught up with me one day.

Three of us worked at long tables filled with material.

A young library worker was filling in for the archivist at lunch.

In the silent room, a ping sounded, she looked at her phone and gasped.

“Oh, no! We’re supposed to be in the basement!”

The German man looked over the top of his glasses and the New Englander of Japanese descent startled.

I asked the obvious question: “Why?”

She bit her lip. “There was a severe tornado watch and I didn’t check my phone. I was supposed to take you downstairs immediately. This is the all clear.”

We all turned to the windows. It was windy.

“I’m driving into the city after this,” I said. Am I safe in the car?”

She smiled eagerly. “I’m sure you are.”

I survived.

A Big City Library

Fifteen minutes after I arrived at a research library in a big city, the loudspeaker announced,

“This is a drill. We are practicing. This is a drill. An active shooter is on campus. Please hide, immediately.”

Research Library, danger in the library, extreme conditions for researchers, active shooter attack, tornadoes, UCLA-USC rivalry, scholars

In the stacks

I grabbed the six hundred page dissertation on the shelf in front of me.

Down in the basement, all I could hear was the air conditioning hum. I’d seen no one else on the floor.

I found a door with a lock and a closet behind with another lock. Inside the cement cell were six chairs. Perfect.

I locked the second door and set up my scanner and the books–for two hours.

At one point, I heard someone moving around outside in the stacks and my heart raced. Was this part of the drill?

I stayed quiet, wished I had stuck my sweater beneath the door to hide any possible light and waited, holding my breath.

When would the all clear sound?

In the cement bunker, I couldn’t pick up a cell signal nor send a text. I drank my water, ate my granola bar and shook my head.

After two hours and with my appointment with the archivist upon me, I snuck out of my hiding place.

Upstairs I whispered to a woman happily working on her computer, “Is it safe to come out yet?”

At her horror, I laughed. They hadn’t announced the all clear over the loud speaker–90 minutes before.

We were all safe.

The librarian, however, wanted to know where I’d hidden so successfully!

A rival university research library

I’m a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, the second of three generations of UCLA graduates in my family.

My parents raised me to be suspicious of “the other college,” also known as the crosstown rival.

But their library system, which is wonderful for online researchers, had an important volume I needed to examine.

My daughter is a graduate student there, so I visited in search of my book.

Which turned out to be on microfiche. They had to search for it.

“It will take a little time,” the kind woman said on the phone. “Let me call you back when I’ve got it.”

I gave her my phone number and sat back to admire the gorgeous library.

And then I realized the danger.

The ringtone on my cell phone is the UCLA fight song, “Sons of Westwood.”

Everyone in Los Angeles recognizes that song.

This particularly cross town rival has a white horse statue displayed in the quad outside the gorgeous research library.

The halls would soon echo with the music that always compels me to action.

I hurried outside to a quiet corner where I adjusted the phone’s volume to low.

As soon as those opening notes sounded, I answered the phone: danger averted.

Alas, they couldn’t find the microfiche, but I escaped with my life!  🙂

Who said research libraries are safe spots?

No one who understands knowledge not only is important, but can be dangerous if misused.


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Weather, shooters, fight songs and too much imagination in the library. Click to Tweet

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What type of material have I been unearthing from these research libraries?

Every month in 2017, I’ll be telling the stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonishing research– finds while writing Mrs. Oswald ChambersResearch Library, danger in the library, extreme conditions for researchers, active shooter attack, tornadoes, UCLA-USC rivalry, scholars

The next newsletter comes out June 20: How an Australian surprised me out of mourning Oswald Chambers.

If you’re interested in reading about all those amazing coincidences, sign up for my newsletter here.

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1 Comment

  1. You are a nerdy super hero!


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