Nov 5, 2013

Crowd-Sourcing My Reading List: A Thank You to Library Patrons That Reserve Books

It's gloomy outside. I'm talking cloudy-skies, but the really sad grey instead of the fearsome black that comes with true storms, slight drizzle that hints at hail occasionally and a sort of chilly gust that doesn't just bite, but gnaws at your nose and ears and fingers until you want to run back inside and curse the skies. Truly awful weather.

And yet, I'm excited. Not for the weather, of course, but rather because of what it means. It means that it's time to go to the library. Now obviously I think it's time to go to the library basically every day, and thanks to good legislation and a well-read society that's an option. But this is different, this is the beginning of reservation season. There is nothing on the internet that I can find to support my claim, but I stand behind it. Late-October/Early-November brings a beautiful upswell of books reserved at my public library. I noticed it several years ago when I volunteered, misguidedly, to help reshelve the books that were never picked up, and it became my weekly duty. 

There's something strangely intimate about seeing the books that people reserve, scanning through the titles that people felt so strongly about reading at some point that they requested they be sequestered from general population. Like the collectibles section in an antique store, these things hold value greater than their peers. But to who? That was always the biggest question I could never answer, since the reserve slips only ever had a library card #, all I could do was make feeble attempts at guessing the age, gender, or interests of the intended recipient. And it was within that mystery that I found the value of the reserve section.

There are countless ways to find books, from bookstore suggestions to review sites, and they all present me with the same general information. Which books are popular, which authors are popular, what genre is hot right now? And that's exactly the information that I want from them, except, sometimes I don't want it and it's still there. And what's worse it updates constantly, so firmly rooted in the present that if you look away for a couple months, you could miss a ton of hidden treasures. But not in the reserves section. Instead it seems to be the antithesis of review sites; no names, no star system, not even thumbs up/down, in most cases the books haven't even been read by the person selecting them. And yet, it has no predilection for the present and it holds no bias, just books that people think should be read. 

It'd be as good as random if I couldn't pick out the patterns, but they're in there, a dash of late-80's wilderness fiction anchored by Gary Paulsen's The Hatchet here, Clyde B. Clason and Charlotte Armstrong providing a smattering of 1940's Fiction there. Something drives these patterns, and as such drives my own exploration. I discovered my love of 1950's science-fiction centering around utopian city planning gone wrong, or how I learned that while the mid-19th century did have more lax rules about punctuation, Charlotte Brontë really was just bad at avoiding run-on sentences (I suffer this habit myself). This is where I find my reading list to fill the gaps between new releases I've been anticipating. This is where I've rounded out my experiences, and grown beyond the genres I would otherwise have trapped myself within.

And so I thank each and every one of you that has reserved a book, I thank you for being the filter that I want but lack the experience to become, and I thank you for your unwitting contribution to my life as a reader. Now please stop reserving a million copies of Infinite Jest, they're getting hard to wade through.

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