Under No Certain Search Terms, by Janice Nimura                                 Nimura's Article

Janice Nimura started on a journey. She articulates the mystery of creative learning, the urge to go beyond the limits of prediction and control. The author "wandered" among ideas she had not set out to find, discovering serendipitous results. The library always supported this type of learning by having diverse collections of old and new materials, useful classification systems, and librarians to help along the way. People went there to concentrate and explore.

Not every patron or researcher takes this roundabout route. But many do. Library planners, armed with circulation stats and an agenda to disrupt the search process, design away this type of library. They start to weed too randomly and end up throwing essential works away.  They follow business fads and trends without adapting them to libraries. The effect is to limit intellectual freedom. Such planning disengages librarians from their work, distracts patrons from their searches and steals the space devoted to collections.

It's an invitation in reverse. The crass commercialism drives readers away, attracting a new breed of user pleased by predictable and controlled shopping environments. The library is just another destination place, with a veneer of "learning" tacked on to secure public funding. The fragile quiet space where readers wander shelf to shelf, exploring concepts and asking questions, disappears. The most insensitive administrators call these environments, "pie in the sky" libraries and aim to replace them. They violate patrons' rights. They ostracize and attack those who resist change (or fight the takeover).

Healthy change integrates old and new; it does not coerce or shame people to accept it. Healthy change makes the most of what this author calls, "Serendipity," what Einstein called, "Combinatory Play." Traditional libraries have always been home to that kind of play, not a noise-filled arcade. Nimura writes, "Search algorithms leave no room for serendipity, and without that, some of the magic leaks out of the pursuit of the past.... I tried to create space for aimless wandering, and every time, the story became more vivid."                

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