Main Content

Library aromatherapy: just another public service

Printer-friendly page

Today a friend handed me a small container of Play-Doh® she had received in a class assignment.

I don't know what I was expecting when I opened the container and sniffed the familiar compound, but suddenly the time machine of memory took me back to age 6 at my grandma's kitchen table, where my best friend and I were cranking out salt-dough spaghetti and meatballs for everyone in the house.

My grandmother has been gone for several years now, and I lost touch with that best friend a long time ago, but there they both were, captured in a mental glass bubble for all eternity, albeit one that sort of smells like old bicycle tires.

Scientists have discovered that unlike other sensory experiences (sight, touch, hearing), the sense of smell is located in the body in such a way that it gets a kind of shortcut to the processing centers of the brain. So while you may take a moment to remember that former classmate's face, or remember exactly whose voice that is, the infusion of smell into the experience is an immediate one, like that plunge from the top of the roller coaster. Before you know it and can protest, you are off on an adventure.

There are fresh inquiries being made all the time into the connection between smell and memory. Whether your interest is merely academic or practical (think aromatherapy bath products and candles), those of us who love books know the money that can be made from developing the perfect perfume: the one that smells like our first book, our favorite book, or just old books in general.

If it's been a while since you came to the library, the weather has just begun to turn crisp and hint at the delicious possibilities of a night under the covers with a good book. Come share our aromatherapy, and see where the adventure takes you.