Who are they? What do they look like? Why did they pick this exact book out? I have no inkling of who returned what book, because I don't check in the books I shelve. I try to imagine their lives through the books I'm taking back home to the shelves. Sometimes the thought brings a smile to my face: a first baby advice book from a dad who's more terrified and excited than he's ever been, a huge huge book of animals from a kid who can barely hold it but is enthralled by each and every pictures, or a travel book on Italy from a couple just returned from their perfect honeymoon. Other books lead to sadder stories: a heap of diet books that somehow feel unused and unsuccessful, a book on divorce law from a man resigned to a lonelier future, or trashy romance novel from someone already living that lonely future. One day I shelved one, two, three books on dealing with adult ADHD, and finally a book on living with divorce and ADHD. I paused and hoped that things would turn around that person, and I hadn't the faintest idea of who they were.
It's strange how connected I can feel to a person who is only there in the abstract sense that we touched the same object. There is a certain power and remembrance to the physical world, especially for me within the realm of books. Maybe it's the imagination that books have always invigorated when I read them manifesting in a real world story creation. Or maybe it's the fact that getting a book from the library is so direct and intended in an age of internet browsing that there has to be a reason for it. Imagined or not, there are memories that travel with me as I make my way through the rows and rows and books.