Does the idea of hitting the library make you break out in a cold sweat? You could be suffering from Library Anxiety.
Yep, it’s a real thing. So real, in fact, that it’s made it into scientific journals and is a commonly known affliction among the university librarian community.
According to JSTOR, it’s the feeling that one’s research skills are inadequate and that those shortcomings should be hidden. In some students, it manifests as an outright fear of libraries and the librarians who work there.
Lead researcher in the field, Constance A. Mellon, concluded, “75 to 85 percent of students in each class described their initial response to the library in terms of fear or anxiety.”
This goes way beyond just associating the library with your biggest pre-exam, cram sessions; this is an actual fear of the library itself.
In Mellon’s study, students repeatedly associated terms like “scary”, “overpowering”, “helpless” and “fear of the unknown” with their trips to stacks.
And while the root of a lot of this anxiety was their own inadequate research skills, they were still reluctant – in some cases, scared – to approach librarians for help.
Library Anxiety pic.twitter.com/wAGdgvyVmP
— Bee Cheese (@lollibeepop) July 21, 2017
The good news for sufferers is that most universities are already clued up on Library Anxiety and are taking measures to ease your rising apprehension.
Recognising that “inspirational spaces can also be intimidating spaces,” librarians are making libraries as welcoming as possible. Or, in the words of Ann Campion Riley, President of the Association of College & Research Libraries, make them “warm and fuzzy”.
Studies have shown reducing fear can come down to something as simple as layout, so most libraries are making sure the first thing you see when you walk through the doors is a person who’s ready to help you out.
There are also extensive opportunities at most universities to “get to know” your librarian, whether through walking tours of the labyrinthine shelves, information seminars or ask-a-librarian tools. Approachable graduate students are also making an appearance at library desks to encourage interaction.
Often it’s the personal touch that makes the big difference; reaching out to those students who may have unique anxieties and concerns and ensuring they feel comfortable.
If you’re one of the many people who feel their hearts start to quicken at the prospect of stepping through library doors, know you’re not alone! And make sure to look for a friendly face – the librarians are always more than happy to help.