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Jun 29

Serendipitous discoveries

Its Day 29 of 30 blog posts in 30 days challenge and after something that happened today, I was wondering about serendipitous discoveries that have been made in libraries.

We went to Mt Baw Baw in the Victorian Alps, taking the kids for their first visit to the snow. Left early, made sure we had all the gear, etc and got there at a not unreasonable time, only to discover that we had selected the correct chains for our car, but they did not fit.  So we had to turn around, go back down the mountain and collect a new set. All up, it added an extra hour to our travel.

Pretty upsetting really, with kids being so excited and having to deal with car sickness on all those windy roads. Turned out that having to do that and put up with all that was serendipitous indeed.

On our second trip back up to the mountain, we came around a tight corner and I watched in amazement as a pair of lyrebirds came floating down from some treetops on the right and landed on the road ahead of us. I drew the family’s attention to them as I slowed the car. They briefly walked down the road away from us, displaying their beautiful lyre tails and then raced across the road and disappeared up and left, back into the forest.

We couldn’t believe it and just wow’ed for almost the rest of the way back up the mountain. Even my daughter realised that we wouldn’t have seen them if it hadn’t been for the problem with the chains.  We all felt immediately better about the problem and it was pushed back further into the ‘not to worry’ category after having a great time at the snow.

That was our little moment, what of  other discoveries? I know that there have been a number of chemical discoveries which came about by accident, including gelignite, silly putty, teflon, scotchguard and artificial sweeteners. In the medical realm, important serendipitous discoveries have included penicillin, nitrous oxide, viagra, anti-pscyhotic drugs and some cancer treatments. (great write up in Wikipedia)

Serendipity in the library, happens pretty much every day. You are looking for some information for a patron and find some for another one, a borrower browses looking for a particular author/title/genre and finds something they weren’t looking for, but are delighted to find.

But have there been serendipitous discoveries that have changed projects or libraries, or even affected the profession in some way? I am sure there are, but I can’t think of any.  Hopefully you’ll be able to think of some – if so, please let me know through comments.

2 comments

  1. Penny

    not sure about library ones, but to add to your list… Worchestershire sauce 😛

  2. Michelle McLean

    I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, lol.

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