Friday, July 9, 2010

Joys of Walking the Stacks

I get a visceral thrill from wandering the stacks in a library. First, there is the famous (or infamous) library smell, the scent of millions of pages slowly aging between their various bindings. Second, there is nothing quite like going to search for a book, and then seeing the book next to it, and the one next to it, and the one next to it. Related to one another, and yet potentially very different, the wanderer in the stacks can make connections between texts that the Internet searcher cannot. This is what I hope will become available for e-books. When we walk through an e-book library, I want the same random feeling that comes from walking down a library corridor. I want to be able to look at the shelf above and the shelf below and make the mental connections between texts that a computer cannot.* Today I began in a section of the library devoted to family studies and then continued to walk two or three shelves down, and I found myself in a section devoted specifically to the raising and training of children. I know that libraries are not randomly organized, and that this procedure I love first requires categories to be established, and so I understand that I a significant amount of order has been applied to chaos, but there is still nothing like simply turning around from one side of the stacks to another and seeing what is on the other side.

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