Almost every visit to the library becomes a double-edged sword for me. I almost always go to the library because I need to find something, whether that is of a practical nature (how to re-wire an antique lamp), an academic nature (data on methods of language teaching used in US schools) or to find pleasurable reading (has Ursula K. LeGuin written anything new lately?). The need for information or a good book takes me to the library, but then, something else happens which I don’t manage to escape. Somewhere in the visit, my attention is grabbed by something else, some other section of the library, a book or a section of periodicals, or an area of interest totally unrelated to why I came into the library.
Such trips to the library should have taken me just a few minutes. I knew what I was going in to find. But, three hours later, I would find myself on the floor with a stack of books around me, or in a chair in some corner of the library lost in the thing that called to me. I would act occasionally bothered, looking at my watch, as if this distraction has ruined my day, but the truth is that this is the real joy of any trip to the library–to see what calls to me and to find myself lost for a while in reading and discovery that was not a part of any agenda or assignment.
It would be many trips to the library before this sort of push and pull of why I was there and what I actually received became clear to me. Early on, I would leave a little disgusted that I had “wasted” so much time there. Later would I begin to realize what a treasury the library was to me, and that any time I could spend there enjoying its treasures was a real gift.
Reflecting on these experiences leaves me wondering where else in my life I move into a space for a “purpose”, only to be drawn more deeply into life in ways that were not on my to-do list.