Starting research can be stressful enough without adding library anxiety to the mix. If you are unfamiliar with academic libraries or the kinds of books, article-locator tools, and services offered by them, it can be intimidating to even walk in the front door.
If you are a student working on an assignment when you first start feeling anxious about using the library, chances are you are also already very busy with coursework, under pressure to make good grades, and still trying to maintain a social life.
Here are some tips that can help you cope with library anxiety so that you can make friends with the library, or at the very least, be able to get in, get out with what you need, and get on with your life.
Take deep breaths and work on focusing. When we are under stress, even fairly simple navigational tasks can become difficult. You are more likely to be able to find what you need if you slow down, look around, and read carefully. And, again, you can ask for help if you feel lost or panicked.
Recognize that what you're feeling is common and that you aren't alone in feeling overwhelmed by the libraries. Sometimes being able to put a name to a problem really helps in dealing with it. If you know library anxiety is affecting your work, you can take steps to deal with it.
Ask a librarian or library employee for help. It can be hard to ask for help. Many of us have grown up with strong impressions of the value of independence and self-reliance and may feel like we should be able to figure out libraries all by ourselves. And sometimes librarians may look a bit intimidating behind the reference desk. But librarians are here to help you, and, even though it may be hard to believe if you are stressed out, librarians like helping you and want to see you succeed.
Ask your instructor for help. If you are really struggling or feeling paralyzed when you try to do your library research, let your instructor know. They may have some ideas of places to start and may be able to talk with you about ways to make your research easier.
Please also be aware that Harper offers a variety of counseling services to students that may be useful if you are suffering from anxiety or stress.
Try to plan ahead. It's very, very easy to procrastinate when feeling library anxiety. Unfortunately, procrastinating only makes it worse. As deadlines approach and the amount of time you have to work with shrinks, chances are good your anxiety levels will go up, not down. So try to nip this cycle in the bud by getting into the library and asking for help early on.
Constance Mellon believed that library instruction should be approached from a broad perspective that attempts to comfort and ease students rather than teach them everything they need to know about library research. She referred to this library instruction redesign as "warmth sessions." "Warmth sessions" address the negative emotions, including tension, fear, uncertainty, helplessness, self-defeat or disorganization, that students with library anxiety exhibit.