It’s my job to sit in a back room (or a secret lair?) and catalog all the new stuff that the library receives. This hardly sounds glamorous, but it’s an important job. If we didn’t have a cataloger, then we could just take everything the library owns and throw it in a giant bin – a bin the size of the building. Then, when you need to do research, you could come over and root through the bin and pick out a few random things, and hope that you find something you can use. There would be no organization to any of it.
That’s really the crux of my job. I am also a philosopher by training, and I like to tell my former classmates that I am an applied metaphysician, since my job is to describe the things that exist and how they are related to each other. (That might also sound as boring as the tax code, but there’s a pretty interesting popular book on the topic, called Everything is miscellaneous. It’s about the new world order. Or disorder, as the case may be.)
It all sounds coldly clinical, but sometimes it’s anything but.
Libraries receive gifts of books from the families of people who have passed away. I think this is a wonderful gesture; it’s as though the intellectual life of the deceased continues to live on through his or her books. We received a large gift of books a few weeks ago on behalf of a deceased person, and I’ve been adding them to the collection. The books have many bookmarks, business cards, small scraps of paper, news clippings, and other items tucked in them. The owner used to write notes about these books on these scraps, so each book has a number of his comments tucked inside.
The more I see these items, the more I feel sorry that I never had a chance to take this man out for a cup of coffee while he was alive. I never knew him personally, but he sounds like he was an interesting, well-read person. His books cover many subject areas, and I just think it would have been edifying to talk to him. So each bookmark I find, each business card with notes scribbled on the back, makes me just a little sad because of what humanity loses whenever someone dies.
Yesterday, though, I was cataloging some of his books, and feeling blue because of it, and a news clipping fell out of one of them. It’s just a picture, with no caption. It’s a little girl at what appears to be a petting zoo. The picture was composed such that the little girl is off to the side, and there is a goat front and center, with his head very close to the camera. It’s a very silly picture, and it made me laugh.
So, I want to send a message across the cosmos: That really brightened my day. I never met you, and yet here you are, making me laugh. Thanks for the goat.