The human brain is like a library that stocks memories instead of books. In some ways, that makes the hippocampus, the part of the brain most involved in memory, the brain's librarian. The hippocampus has the most responsibility in this cranial library, juggling the new releases of short-term memory while cataloging materials for the permanent collection of long-term memory. It's not the only part at work, however, in storing these chapters of our lives. Different kinds of memory are stored in different areas of the brain. With such a large system, the brain needs a system of encoding and retrieving memories, something a bit more complex than the local library's Dewey Decimal System.
The brain has to be able to pull information at the drop of a hat, whether it's a fact on hold (such as a telephone number) or a dusty memory that's been sitting in storage for years (the memory of your first kiss). No one likes a library that loses books or shelves them in the wrong place. Yet sometimes we find ourselves with a very poor librarian on our hands, one that doesn't allow us to retrieve memories when we need them. Sometimes it's trivial, like when we tear apart our homes looking for glasses perched innocuously atop our heads, and sometimes these lapses in memories are more embarrassing, such as when we call a colleague "sport" because we simply can't remember his name.
Whether you're a college student studying for an important test or an aging baby boomer concerned about forgetting a recent doctor's appointment, there are a few things everyone can do to optimize the storage and checkouts in our private libraries of memories.