Serendipity versus Search

Part of me just wants to observe: “article musing on the role of serendipity in research and how it was often prompted by getting lost in library stacks gets misread by a librarian as an attack on modern search: film at eleven.” I don’t think [*The Ubiquitous Librarian*][ul] is purposefully being a bit dense, but that’s the result. Fortunately, the comments save the article. (And, yes, I’m a proponent of serendipity, but as my friend Ridger Kamenetz once observed, “You have to be there to get it.” That is, without adequate preparation, there is a lot less luck.)

As an underprepared graduate student in folklore studies at Indiana University, the stacks of the research library were an unbelievable field of fortune: I learned so much about what I needed to know by pulling books off the shelves that were adjacent to the text for which I had been searching. I not only filled in gaps in my education but also sometimes got a quick sense of the landscape of a particular subfield by not only examining the contents of a shelf but of an entire bay.

So, a thank you to librarians but also to the Library of Congress cataloging system. (Can you search by LoC number in Google Books?)


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