The small joys of discovery and serendipity

Presents, pinecones, and a cup of cocoa

Bell (2018, para. 2) cites Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert in noting that happiness is more in small joys than in grand events.  He focuses on how librarians can contribute to users’ everyday joys.  One recommendation is fostering serendipitous discovery (Bell, 2018, Acting with Intent section).

In another post Bell, using the term “collisions with collections,”  goes into this theme at greater length.  He mentions special displays and even “blind dates with a book,” where users pick up a wrapped book with only hints as to what’s inside.   Librarians and faculty can also curate digital learning materials (2014, Bringing Back the Collisions section).

When we teach, we librarians can also emphasize search strategy.  The Searching as Strategic Exploration frame is the one that includes “inquiry, discovery, and serendipity” (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2016, p. 22).   On the surface strategy may seem opposed to serendipity, yet  a thoughtful mindset prepares the searcher for the unexpected find.  “Chance favors only those minds which are prepared,” to quote Pasteur (as cited in Peterson, 1954, p.473). ”

These practices are part of what we librarians do everyday.  Still, Bell gives us a good reminder of why they matter.  Here’s wishing you many everyday joys for the Holiday season!


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Chicago, IL: Author.

Bell, S. (2014, October 13). Collections are for collisions: Design it into the experience [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Bell, S. (2018, November 8). Helping students be happier: Where the library fits in [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Peterson, H. (Ed.). (1954). A treasury of the world’s great speeches. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.


Image credit: rawpixel, Retrieved from

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