Friday, April 17, 2009

What Does Half a Million Look Like?

Some time in the next week, NPL will have its 500,000th checkout. There's a statistic that fairly begs for visualization. Whee!

We measured the spine of a "typical" book, stacked it and its fellows by a cool 500 thou, and spun it into the mathematical, the theoretical. Where would you be if you were to climb such a stack of books?

We suddenly found ourselves eleven miles up, teetering into the stratosphere. I immediately requested dramamine for the dizziness that enveloped me.

However, I regained my composure before it arrived. In libraries, ultimately the theoretical must yield to the concrete: to children emerging from story time with a stack of books on today's theme; to the commuter who needs a good story to stay alert on the road. There are the live wires who come in after the latest title they've heard about on "Fresh Air," or the reading club member asking to be placed on the list for the book of the moment. Add to these the mom or dad who need a Harry Potter DVD to get the kids through a rainy Saturday, the Consumer Reports reader on the verge of a major purchase, the gardener in need of a landscape plan, the cook in search of a recipe, and from there, the sky's the limit. Such are the instances that have brought us to this point, each of them lovely in their way.

We're wondering who will check out our 500,000th item. This milestone will probably occur in the next week. Attainment of the magic number will be lucky for the patron who hits it: a gift certificate at the Norwich Book Store and delicious candy from Champlain Chocolates. What's not to like?

The suspense is sweet! (Pun intentional.)

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