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Don’t Panic, by Olivia Tooker

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Library Assistant, Olivia Tooker, grapples with the challenge of boxed up books as she shelters at home. This post is part of 805's "My Home Library" blog that features essays by writers who are sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. 805 is proudly published by the Manatee County Public Library System. We hope this blog will help Manatee County residents show off their home libraries, find comfort in books, and feel connection to the library during this difficult time.

"Don't Panic." ~Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galazy

Arthur Dent didn’t plan to be in his bathrobe with a towel when his planet (Earth) was demolished by the Vogons to make room for an intergalactic bypass, and I didn’t plan to be buying and moving into a 100-year-old-house during a global pandemic of apocalyptic proportions.

My home library is in boxes.

What do you do when your building blocks of comfort, the books you’ve spent your whole life curating—the survivors of hard choices made over a dozen moves in 27 years, the old favorites you’ve bought in lieu of new releases, the beautiful copies, the falling apart copies, the TBR pile that really might be useful right about now—are out of reach? What do you do when your favorite literature is boxed up and you refuse to unpack those boxes until they are in your new home?

I don’t know.

I’m unmoored. I’m adrift. At least I have my towel?

Thankfully, I’m not as abandoned by literature as I could be.

I still have my kindle collection, my binder of DVDs, and a few book-stragglers who didn’t make it into the boxes. Included in the stragglers: The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider by Jim Henson, The Hidden Power of F*cking Up by The Try Guys (the hardcover and the audio CD), In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, a Marx Brothers DVD collection, and a classic monster movies DVD collection.

It feels as if these loiterers were meant to stay outside the boxes.Good Omens is about the end of the world. Jim Henson quotes always make me feel better about people’s ability to create and be kind. The Try Guys are here to help me make mistakes and laugh about it. In Other Lands is the most hilarious book I’ve read in the past year. And I am always comforted by my favorite old Hollywood movies, of the screwball comedy and classic horror varieties as well as the delightful adventure.

(What this also means, world, is that I know who from the golden age of Hollywood is still alive, and if COVID-19 gets her, I will lose it entirely. Paris, I’m looking at you. You keep my Maid Marion safe, or I will purposely forget every scrap of French I know.)

But before I reached for these, I’m not ashamed to say that the very first panic response I had to this pandemic was to re-read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the fifth time and then spend my first free afternoon watching five straight hours of the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.

I had homework to do! Packing! Planning! Panicking! Instead, my partner and I gasped in play-shock at Lydia running off with Wickham while disgracing her family, and we exclaimed loudly over the audacity of Lady Catherine De Bourgh forcing her way into the Bennet’s household to verbally attack and corner Elizabeth. My partner, AJ, started watching in the last three hours because he’s a sucker for drama, but don’t worry, I made sure he watched the “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry” scene on YouTube so he could appreciate Mr. Darcy being verbally dragged through the muck and dirt by our favorite Austen heroine.

Don’t panic!

Any time I’m stressed or going through big life changes, I go back to things I’ve read and watched before. If the world is going to change rapidly, as least I know where to find happy endings that will tide me over. I know when the bad guys get foiled and the hero(ine) wins the day. I know that this book with make me laugh, that movie will remind me of love, and if I try something new, it will be from a trusted creator who already made one of my most favorite things.

Every day, I’m just trying to move past the exhaustion of surviving the unknown. My little boat in the sea of uncertainty has just enough to keep me sane. Hopefully, I’ll be able to unbox my other friends soon, and they can help me too.

Don’t Panic.

Maybe I’ll watch the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy next. I don’t think I’ve packed the DVD yet. . .


Olivia Tooker is a library assistant at Braden River Library. Born during Hurricane Andrew, Tooker doesn't mind being calm amidst chaos but does dream of regularly scheduled adventures, reading new books, coordinating teen volunteers, and watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with friends.


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