The Public Library as Temple

One of my very favorite places in Grand Rapids is our newly refurbished Grand Rapids Public Library (http://www.grpl.org). Aside from being a beautiful architectural space inside, I consider it something of a sacramental site: a place where God surprises me, meets me, guides me, and challenges me. The shelves of classical CDs offer means of delight and grace. The periodical room--with its cavernous sculpted ceilings and sprawling fireplace--opens up the world for me as I curl up on cozy chairs with the New York Review of Books or Vanity Fair (Bunyan would be a bit disturbed by that). But my favorite place--the holy of holies in this temple--is the New Arrivals shelf. In fact, I consider the New Arrivals shelf a kind of Sinai, where I go up expecting God to show me something: to _reveal_ something. Here, in this public library, the acquisitions are not governed by "academic" concerns. There is no logic of selection that I control on the New Arrivals shelf. That's why I experience it as a kind of sheer grace, this gift where I encounter books I wouldn't even know to go looking for. And I am enough of a Calvinist (and perhaps naive enough) to think that God has _appointments_ for me on the New Arrivals shelf--that there are surprises and gifts waiting there for me left by the hand of the Creator.