Oversized Books and Rainbow Spaces

Sunshine splashes the surfaces of our walls, carpet floors, and desk that is the ASK desk, creating rainbows in unexpected places. It makes me wonder if, when the architects drew up their blueprints for the space, they knew how good it would feel to be on the receiving end of that vision.

Some days, like today, I wonder at an entire building of books and its tribute, both glaringly obvious and whisperingly subtle, to human growth (and its requisite curiosity). 

It's a passionately hope-filled space, a library.

Working at the ASK desk, it seems that I ought to frequently exclaim loud and clear, "Hey you, dear patron! There is no question that will be rebuffed, no question too obvious, and no curiosity ridiculous!

Everything in good time, as my grandmother would say. Although in asking us, you may shortcut unnecessary frustrations to finding the information you seek. 

More than a few patrons I've talked with will say, "This library is amazing," their eyes wide open, soaking in the richness. And yes, it's a richness of the fullest degree. Aesthetic and practical in harmonious union. There are no prerequisites for existing in this space. It's a public library; for-the-people library. 

Working at the reference/ASK desk, I realize that my role is that of a steward and not owner. I'm here to facilitate a connection with information. I've rarely met two patrons who are alike at the ASK desk. Each comes with their own manner of speaking, of asking, and of engaging. That's energizing. The spectrum of personalities means that no day is like any other, as long as I'm paying attention. Staff love when you can unpeel all the wonderful curiosities that make you, YOU, no matter the topic. 

A patron recently meandered to the ASK desk, a subtle smile on their face before looking up. Finally they said, "What is the meaning of all this?", and half-jokingly continuing, "Is this life-question something you can answer at a desk?" alluding to the idea that we may never get to the bottom of all that is this. 

I couldn't answer of course, in any substantial way. Yet even with a weighty question like this, we have perfect fodder for what we call a "reference interview", which sounds formal, but is really at it's most basic, a conversation.

We might ask you: How would you like to find meaning? What information have you sought already that is helpful? How quickly do you need this information? Where have you found meaning in the past? For example, if you know you're an auditory learner, then I would refer you to our audiobook collection, or you might like the quicker feel of a magazine, or perhaps you jive best finding meaning through an artist who's mentioned in previous posts and lists, the inimitable Bruce Springsteen). Although, admittedly the Boss' music isn't in our non-fiction section, which is what Info staff know best. You can find our collection of CDs by the holds shelf. Our amazing LookPlayListen crew publishes regular staff lists and reviews.

This patron was mostly kidding with their question but ironically enough, the library is truly about meaning and purpose in both facts (non-fiction) and stories (fiction), with materials immense and varied.

Is "everything" an answer to your question, dear patron?

But hey, say you're wanting to simply rest your eyes this month, rather than explore all that is existential, we have a display by the fiction loop (and before you hit Accounts), that features some our oft-overlooked, though quite beautiful, oversized books. The theme is "Books to Rest Your Eyes". If you are in the mood for turning the digital dial down in this time of stunning leaf beauty, then come along and ride the enchanting ride that is printed image-on-paper. You can add some coffee and sunshine and rainbows too, if you like. Maybe a gaze across Watson park, while you look at Underwater Puppies, or Edgar Degas and his wondrous images of dancers in motion, or biographical images of Prince in My Name Is Prince?

Please tell us what you seek. And to all of you who venture out, taking a chance on those sometimes-scary conversations on sensitive questions, bravo. Or perhaps you don't understand the Dewey Decimal System (it's from the 1800s, created by a dude named "Melvil". I've never met a Melvil, myself). Completely understandable and normal, I say!  

You can email Info staff at eref@lplks.org with your juicy questions or come on over in person! You'll see our desk by the stairs. There's also chat. We're open until 8pm Mondays through Thursdays, which means if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs later into the evening, perhaps threatening carpal tunnel, come on over. Your boredom just might lead you to what you seek.

Pablo Neruda writes in his The Book of Questions, "Donde termine el arco iris, en tu alma o en el horizante?"

"Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?"

Both, maybe?

-Theresa Bird is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.