There are some parts of the library to which one simply does go. There are cool, dark recesses where the stacks twist unnaturally and lead to strange new halls. There are ragged alcoves where the books are locked behind bars of iron or of silver. There are shelves where language folds into itself and becomes the script of dreams. These are the places where secrets live and grow, far from the sun, far from the eyes of both the students and the Gentry.
It is best to avoid these parts of the library, yet you will find them eventually (or they will find you, depending on your perspective). You stayed at the library late, late, late into the long winter nights. You went looking for a particular edition of a particularly esoteric tome. You were just looking for someplace quiet to study.
You can tell when you’re at the borders. At the places where Known world fades away and the edges of reality grow blurry and indistinct. You will feel the walls of the library stretch away from you. You will look out into the stacks and see only shadows where there should be structure. You will listen as the soft sounds of turning pages and calm breathing fade away into silence, silence almost pulsing with some unknown heartbeat. You will grow dizzy as the scent of paper and pulp turns to sweet incense and fills your lungs. You will feel as though you are drowning.
Most of the time (though-and this is critical-not always) you will spin away from the dark and find yourself back in the library. Perhaps it will be in a different section, perhaps it will even be a different day, but you will return more-or-less unchanged. You may find yourself hesitant to return at night or on those silvery days when the sun comes from the sky like water damaged silk and the wind sinks through your skin and into your bones. Days that you feel as if you could be cast away on a particularly strong breeze.
But that’s the trick of the library, you can never really escape it, after all, you are a scholar. Eventually you will return, eventually though every nerve will scream at you to stay on solid ground, to stay in the bright light, you will return. You will need that book, that phrase, that secret. After all the University is known for its vast library. And in all likelihood you will never go farther then those borders. You may shiver as you pass a particularly dark shadow lurking between the shelves, you may rush in and then out with equal speed, you may be unable to escape the lingering feeling of being observed, but still, you will return.
And perhaps you will find some reason to search out those strange sections. It has happened before. Perhaps you will go stalking through the stacks looking for some words that are just a little off, some symbols unknown to Dewey or the Library of Congress, some book that written by inhuman hands. Should that occur you may try to talk to the librarians. They are, after all, the most knowledgeable of the library’s particular idiosyncrasies.
Be careful, the librarians aren’t entirely part of your world. Oh they can touch iron and be trusted with a name (at least, as far as anyone can be trusted with a name), but that doesn’t mean they are safe. Those who have dedicated themselves to the library have been changed, how could they not? You can tell in the way their voices carry a slight echo, a slight edge. You will notice in the way their eyes glint like broken glass at the edge of a fire. You will sense in the way you can feel their gaze regardless of whether or not they are actually looking at you. They are creatures of the library just as much as their books.
So approach them with caution and respect. Don’t expect accommodation. Depending on which one you ask and how you word your request they may help you. There’s the young woman with honey colored hair and wormwood eyes, she will smile (a not altogether comforting expression) and simply steer you towards a different part of the library, try to help you find a book that is of this world. There is the severe woman in black who, nine times out of ten, will simply raise her brows, sigh, and send you on your way. That one time out of ten she will ask you if you know what it is you’re asking (you will reply yes-you will be wrong) and then lead you up and down the stacks, twisting this way and that through sections you didn’t even know existed, that you didn’t even know could exist before depositing you in that shadow realm and looking at you with an expression of such profound pity your heart will break. Then there is the silver haired man with the thickest glasses you have ever seen, whose eyes peer out at you through that heavy glass, liquid and deep and beautiful as the moon reflected in still water. He will take a magnifying glass (reading through layer upon layer of glass) and softly and with kindness help you get to where you need. He is rarely seen.
After you have found your way (through whatever means) to those fluid sections of the library you will need to find your books. Not a simple task. The sections and organization are rather more eccentric than is standard. The scripts twisting in and out of legibility, the layout flickering as if the shelves were about to gutter and shutter and fade from existence at any second, even the books are liable to change, you will rarely find the same one in exactly the same condition, with exactly the same contents as when first read.
When it is time to leave you will have to rely on luck and your status as a creature of the material world. These hidden places are so different from you and yours they will work to spit you out. That is if you don’t stay too long, if you don’t fall too deep, if you don’t travel to far, that is if you don’t let the dusk and air and darkness sink through you and into you to settle on your bones. For there are places not even the Gentry know, there are creatures that live in homes of parchment and thought, in gardens of ink and memory, in palaces of whispers and dust and they are not to be disturbed. You will hear them breathing from a few shelves down, you will hear their irregular footfalls echoing through the thick stillness, you will feel them lingering at the edges of understanding. If you are wise you will ignore them.
Eventually when you return, if you return, you will be able to take your prize with you. You will walk in relative safety back to your dorms and you will find if not what you were looking for than at least something of interest. You will find things that seep into your dreams and echo about through your heart. You will find yourself changed. You will find that you have lost something, or perhaps gained something. Regardless you must remember that you only have two weeks. These books belong to the hidden parts of the library and the late fees are rather more extravagant than most.