After much debate, we finally did it. We interfiled. The library shelved reference and other nonfiction titles together, so you can locate all the volumes on your topic without traversing two different areas. Reference (non-circulating books) display purple stickers on their spines. Recognizing this label is your cue to take notes or perhaps photocopy a few passages, since that book won’t be accompanying you home.
We still hear an occasional “Awwwww!” when someone didn’t spot the purple tag and was all set to check out that marvelous find. Boy, do we understand. Though generally designed for lookups rather than lengthy reading, reference books offer a focus, depth, or sheer array of data that instantly fascinates. A fiction fan, I am still halted in my tracks when I encounter a purple-stickered nonfiction number brimming with trivia or number-crunching on a favorite topic.
I can’t ditch the reference desk to spend an hour engrossed in my latest discovery–but you could. For some relaxing infotainment, I recommend picking up a fancy coffee or tea from one of the Main Street establishments (with lids, beverages are OK in the library) and paging through something like these:
- Modern Scandals. Three volumes (coverage from 1904-2008) reporting bribery, suicide, the original Ponzi scheme, archaeological hoaxes, Mae West, Hollywood goings-on, governmental missteps-most everything from Elinor Glyn to Eliot Spitzer.
- Global Perspectives on the United States. Like an international relations Cliffs Notes, these two volumes address brain freeze inspired by ever-changing country names and alliances. The “Statistical Snapshots” brief you on each country’s demographics and economic data; main entries outline the nation’s history of dealings with the US.
- Women in the Middle Ages. Along with significant individuals (Margaret Beaufort, Venerable Bede) these two volumes include, for example, literacy, dowries, enchantresses, spinners and drapers, valkyries, and widows.
- The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 29 volumes spanning centuries of music. Who invented this instrument? Who composed music in England in the 18th century? How about Denmark? And so forth. We have editions for jazz, opera, and American music, too.
- Menus from History: Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year. Two brand-new volumes place handy lists in front: search by date, country, or occasion. Menus reveals what was consumed at Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 “first meal in space” (meat puree, coffee, blackcurrant marmalade); a 1911 Esperanto Society dinner (roast chicken, whortleberry jelly, salted biscuits, Waldorf salad), the common hospital diet for Devon and Exeter Hospital in 1829 (don’t ask). Not just for foodies, Menus provides tidbits to spice up all your writing projects.
- American Decades. Separate volumes for each decade from 1900-1910 to 1990-1999 catalog world events, fashion, lifestyle trends, laws, science and technology, awards, people in the news. Why bother organizing a class reunion, birthday party, or school report without it?