Browsing shelves in the library provides a serendipitous pleasure that browsing the Amazon Marketplace never will.
When you’re on Amazon everything is an algorithm, you’re seeing everything you’re supposed to see. When you wander through the stacks in a library you run into all kinds of different topics. Maybe you’ve never really been interested in space, but you might pluck Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History off the shelf. Or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. How could you not pick that up? Because I work in the library this is something I get to do most days. I see all kinds of interesting things throughout the course of my day.
Sometimes library patrons will recommend their favorite books, sometimes it’ll be a brand new book just shipped to the library, and other times it’ll be something we find when we weed. Weeding is a part of collection development that librarians have to do to keep our collections fresh and relevant.
While weeding the labor section I came across an unassuming book with no dust jacket or cover art called Roll the Union On: A Pictorial History of the Southern Tenant Farmer’s Union as told by it’s co-founder, H.L. Mitchell. The book is a short history of one of America’s major labor movements (one I’d never heard of). H.L. Mitchell and his colleagues fought a long and bitter battle through the 1930s and 1940s for sharecroppers and farmers’ rights. The work the STFU did served as a launching point for the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The book includes songs, poems, and pictures of the labor movement. It’s just one example of hundreds that we come across at Eisenhower every year when we review our collections.
Every time I wander into the stacks I think “What am I going to become interested in today?”