Life Lessons from the Library: Sometimes One Book Is Not Enough

Students who are just starting the research process often come up to the circulation desk with what they consider a simple request: They want ONE book that covers everything they need to put in their paper. It takes a lot to convince them that if one book covered everything they wanted, that would be more in line with a book report rather than a research paper. Many leave us at that point, convinced that we’re holding out on them. Later they come back a little more willing to listen. And we help them find the sources we need.

I should have paid attention to that lesson this Christmas when I went to Alabama to visit my parents. We have a basic tradition in my family. I drive down on Christmas. We hit a few Christmas sales on the day after, and then we go out to eat for my mother’s birthday on the 27th. So usually one book is enough for the trip. Besides, I had learned that books are heavy travel companions when I’m only going to get to one anyway.

But this year, plans changed. My brother-in-law, a fire fighter, had to work on Christmas day, so I went down on Christmas Eve. That was not a huge change to my plans. But the snow on Christmas Day was. My parents live out in the country on the other side of a mountain. Not only do I have to go over the mountain to get home; we have to go over this same mountain to do any shopping or eating out. And my parents truly do live in a rural area; their neighbors across the road are cows and goats. Suddenly, there was a chance that I could be in Alabama for several more days than I’d planned.

I was fortunate enough to have food, shelter, electricity, and my cell phone. But what I didn’t have were books. I only brought one. And I had only brought my bedtime book, the book I read after everyone else has gone to bed. But suddenly, I needed books to fill up the afternoon when my Dad was watching television in my bedroom.  (For most of the year, that’s his den.) While I could read in the living room, it was not a place for uninterrupted reading since my mom likes to tell me about tidbits she’s reading in the newspaper, little things that happened in a restaurant weeks before, or what’s happening out in the neighbor’s yard.  My mom has this stream of consciousness thing going that ignores what others might be doing in the same room :).

Luckily, by the 26th, we were able to get out and the next day, the streets were perfectly safe. And I came on back home. But the lesson has been learned. Even if I have to buy an e-reader, I will never again travel without a selection of books.

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