Over the centuries, library services and collections have been mediated by humans, and therefore the content has been tailored to and by people who used libraries and the space they provide. I know you are wondering where I am going with this. Hang in there with me.

Libraries are about more than just the content they provide. While sitting at a Cincinnati public library desk in 1867, Thomas Edison compiled a bibliography on electricity. Yes, the reference material available there was helpful but the atmosphere was directly related to his productivity. Inside Higher Ed brought this to our attention in their article, “Falling Short of Their Profession’s Needs.”

Inspiration comes from libraries and their content. After her father died in 1963, 9-year-old Sonia Sotomayor buried herself in reading at her Bronx library and the apartment she shared with her mother and brother. “Nancy Drew had a powerful hold on my imagination,” she remembered. “Every night, when I’d finished reading and got into bed and closed my eyes, I would continue the story, with me in Nancy’s shoes, until I fell asleep.” Her mind, she noted, “worked in ways very similar” to Nancy’s. “I was a keen observer and listener. I picked up on clues. I figured things out logically, and I enjoyed puzzles. I loved the clear, focused feeling that came when I concentrated on solving a problem and everything else faded out.”

Do I think a library or Nancy Drew was directly responsible for one of our Supreme Court justices interest in and success at the law? Maybe indirectly.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.