Julia Weist, a Brooklyn-based artist, has posted a 17th Century Word on a large billboard and she wants to be the only one on the Internet using it. If you search for her, lots of posts seem to honor that request. If you want to check out the word, check out her website, which she posted it on as a part of her project called Reach.

Julia said she found the word, which means “coming together through the binding of two ropes,” at the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) in a 1627 publication about vocabulary related to sailors and their trade.

With online books and journal articles, browsing the stacks physically has been on the decline because sometimes technology does not support that function. Preserving the value of serendipitous discovery may be nearly as essential as preserving the material itself.

Academic librarians can collaborate with faculty to engineer serendipitous discovery into research assignments. For example, instead of providing links to specific articles, students can be supplied with librarian-constructed search strategies that lead them to relevant sets of literature requiring student-driven browsing, evaluation, and selection.

We need to explore the possibilities so that others, like Julia, can continue to make happy and ingenious discoveries.


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