At the beginning of this month, I wrote a rather silly piece about the library. It began "[t]he library is a dangerous place." I did not mean the library was physically dangerous.
Tuesday morning I was getting ready to go to class. I kept being interrupted by my phone. I am volunteering as a guide to an actor from England who is performing and teaching on campus this week. We were working out where we were going to meet later that afternoon. The next time my phone rang it was a safety alert. There was an armed suspect in the main library.
I thought little of it, since the police had him pinned in a building. Then my half-awake brain kicked in. The library is full of people. Six floors busy from open to close.
I'd certainly spent my time there. The fifth floor is where I wrote a good third of my thesis. Sometimes I just grab a book from the stacks and chose a nook (there are many) to read it in. I've always found libraries relaxing, so it was a good place to chill for a bit. I'd been there a couple of weeks before with two friends, just hanging out in the second floor cafe. I'd been there less than a week before, just to run in and grab a different edition of a class text in order to read the introduction. And I knew people who spent far more time in there than I.
My phone received much use that morning. Calling friends to check that they were safe, holed up in a classroom, or a gym, their dorm room, or an apartment. Calling my family to assure them that I wasn't on campus.
Luckily, it wasn't a school shooting. Colton Tooley committed suicide on September 28, 2010, on the sixth floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library.
It's still a tragedy. But I'm thankful that only the gunman is dead. I can't articulate much of what I feel. Confused and unhappy and relieved that it wasn't a big tragedy.
The PCL is a wonderful place. Unfortunately, as I once said casually, the library is a dangerous place.