Open-Stack Serendipity

CBS “Sunday Morning” today featured a profile of almanac author Ben Schott in which Schott expressed a belief I’ve long held regarding the wonderful serendipity of browsing the stacks of major library:

“It’s always the book next to the book you’re looking for that’s the really interesting one.”

Which is why it’s a shame that so many library collections are hidden away in closed-stack systems.

Happily, the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania — which is both my alma mater and my current employer — houses the largest open-stack library in the U.S. Both as a student and in the years since, I’ve uncovered many hidden gems by browsing the shelves in the general proximity of the book I was seeking.

It’s like a real-world version of StumbleUpon.

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