Besides an intrinsic love of being surrounded by books every day, the other main reason I fell in love with the public library as a young person was the joy of finding a great book by accident while browsing the shelves. I loved to just browse. I would go through the stacks just to see what I could find. Later in college, I would take a break from my specific research to just browse the stacks of the most obscure parts of the library. It would serve as a fun break. I just wonder why it took me until my senior year of college to figure out that I wanted to be a librarian?
It is that serendipity of walking though the stack while looking for something else, or walking past a shelf while on your way somewhere else, and encountering the perfect book totally by accident that literally fills me with joy.
I was reminded of this yesterday. It was a busy day at the BPL and I was just back after 1 week of vacation, plus as I mentioned yesterday, I had to take an impromptu break to pick up a sick kid and leave him with the babysitter. I was happy that 2 books I specifically put on hold had come in for me: Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson and The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. While I was walking back to my office to put these 2 books I requested away, I passed by the new shelf.
Now, first, I should tell you that the BPL's new shelf is not one shelf. We display the newest books on the ends caps of every stack in the fiction collection (like in the grocery store), and make sure at least one book per shelf on each end cap is face out. Why? So something like I am about to explain can happen.
Let's get back to me again. So, I was walking past the new shelves to the RA office when out of the corner of my eye I saw the graphic novel Castle Waiting: Volume 2 by Linda Medley standing face out on the new shelf. Now, let me say that I LOVED the first volume. See for yourself by clicking here or here. And, more importantly, I had no idea that a new volume was coming out. It has been over 2 years since I read the first volume and I figured one would never come.
There is a point here for the wider RA world. We can check all of the websites we want, we can sign-up for a million RSS feeds, and we can put all the holds we want on books we know about, but we still need that serendipity to find some books.
This is proof of many of the basic RA principles I constantly preach, specifically, "Get out from behind the desk." If I hadn't been up and walking around, I may have never found a book that I would love. For my full "Get off your butt" rant from last March you can click here.
But more importantly, in this age of ebooks and searching for our next good read on the Internet, examples like mine, remind us all that there is something magical about coming into the physical library building and just browsing. It is when we looking for nothing in particular that we find some of our favorite reads.
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