Browsing the Library
January 13, 2012
Have you ever stumbled upon something completely by accident that you had no idea you needed or wanted, but once you found it, you realized it was absolutely perfect for one reason or another? Call it serendipity, love at first sight, fate, destiny, or something to that effect; whatever it is, it's a great experience—perhaps even the stuff that fairy tales are made of.
Believe it or not, this actually happens to me more often than you'd think, and as you've probably already guessed (this is a library blog after all), a lot of times it's actually the perfect book or the perfect piece of information contained in a book that I find.
Here's the key to my success; When I have a little free time or am taking a break, I like to wander sort of aimlessly through the library. I try not to have any preconceived ideas about what I'm looking for, or what part of the library I'm headed to. I just sort of wander and wait for something on one of the shelves to catch my eye. This process has helped me to discover many titles on a variety of topics that I never would have thought to search for, and even some (yes, I realize that I am totally betraying what a dork I am) that have, at least in a small way, changed my life.
I wish I could say that one day I went out browsing the library stacks and found a book at random that gave me an idea for an invention that made me a millionaire or taught me a fact that helped me win Jeopardy or something like that. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Yet.
But I have found some amazing books randomly browsing the library that have changed my life in somewhat subtler ways, such as:
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery:
Just the other day I was taking a walk through the library, and this title caught my eye. As I flipped through it, I was transported back to a time in my younger days when music mattered a lot more to me than it does now. I stopped on the page for Led Zeppelin's III (one of my all-time faves) and then like a flash, it came to me. I knew exactly what song I want to walk down the aisle to when I get married later this year (It is a Led Zeppelin song, but it's not Stairway to Heaven, I promise). Yay! One more thing to check off the wedding planning list!
Wicked Plants: the Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart:
I'm sure you can tell just from the title that this book is definitely a must-read, but you may wonder how exactly it could change my life (no, I haven't poisoned anyone!). Really and truly, information directly from this book has helped me win actual money at a game of trivia (albeit a small amount) by knowing the answers to several questions about poisonous plants, answers that I never would have known if I hadn't stumbled across this little gem. And who knows, if I am ever stranded in the wild, I may even kinda know what plants I shouldn't be eating, which might just save my life...
How to cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman:
I remember the very day that I accidentally stumbled upon this fabulous cookbook and decided to check it out because I love it so much. It contains some of my now all-time favorite recipes and has definitely changed the way I eat. If it weren't for a nice, random library ramble, I may never have found it!
So maybe I haven't accidentally stumbled on anything life-shatteringly, mind-blowingly amazing; but I promise you, random books found while browsing have definitely enriched my life. Of course, aimlessly browsing is not the most efficient way to find something specific. By all means, when you know what you need or want, you might be better off asking library staff to help you (although we're always happy to help, even if you have absolutely no idea what you're looking for!) or doing a search of the library catalog to find the location of what you need. But here's the the thing; the browsing experience can be magical. And, it is difficult to reproduce virtually. There's just so much information online, both in the library's catalog and the internet at large, it's hard to randomly meander through it all. You always have to enter a keyword to begin a search, so physically walking through the stacks can really be where it's at, especially when it comes to serendipity. So get out there and take a walk through the stacks! Your destiny may be waiting for you!
Lee's Summit Branch