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Section 793.8 – A magical space in a magical place

April 7th, 2021

By Brent Cromley

We all know that reading can be a magical experience.  Instantly, we can be whisked away to experience foreign lands, past or future times, or fascinating intrigue.  But merely walking into a library can also seem to be entering into a magical space. Similar to the experience of seeing the unexpected and unexplained at a magic show, your visit to the library may lead to unanticipated encounters and experiences. Although you may enter with a single purpose, it is difficult to not be diverted by all of the wonderful and varied resources that are there, seemingly determined to grab your attention and divert you from your original intent.  We magicians are familiar with this concept.  It’s called “misdirection,” and is vital to our art.

Who would expect that a stroll past the New Book section would rekindle an interest in the Civil War? And how could it happen that a quick dart into the Montana section would lead to an hour of research on the tunnels that lie beneath downtown Billings?  And what mentalist was able to know that I just happened to need the information on growing tomatoes illustrated on the cover of a current magazine in the Periodicals section of the Library?  None of these were the reason I came to the library, but all of them make me happy I did so.

When I was a child, I knew the number 793.8 as well as I knew my phone number or address.  Most magicians have grown up knowing that number because it is the reference number for books on magic in the Dewey Decimal System.  As a child that is where I spent much of my time at the library.  But later I realized that Section 793.8 is not the only magical section of the library and that, in fact, there is magic throughout.

I still visit Section 793.8 almost every time I enter the library.  But it now represents only a small percentage of the time I spend in the library because I know that there is enchantment throughout the building.