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Browsing

... the New York Public Library, as fine an institution as it is, is not immune to the practice of making things inaccessible because most people are not interested in them. This is an inescapable necessity; libraries, even those as large as the NYPL, just do not have enough room to keep all of their materials close at hand.

One the one hand, putting books that are infrequently read in storage would seem to be a logical solution to the problem of limited space. As long as the books can eventually be found, there is no real loss to the person who wants to read them - one just has to wait a day or two before they can be retrieved.

And yet something very real is lost by this system, and that is the joy of browsing, the benefits of which are both tangible and intangible and are often overlooked. Anyone who frequents libraries or bookstores is familiar with the frisson of excitement that comes from discovering a desirable book that has never been read, or even better, an entire shelf of them, laden with dust and promise. This is an excitement that cannot quite be replicated by reading a computer screen that has a list of books that have never been read and that are being held in a storage facility in the next state, but which can be made available to you in a few days, provided you fill out some call slips.

The Phone Book: the curious history of the book that everyone uses but no one reads
Ammon Shea


I hate the idea of books in storage.*

Back when I was just a patron** I rarely used the catalog. I was always more interested in finding the books I would love but didn't yet know existed than seeking out known titles, and catalogs are rubbish for browsing. Type in "European history" and you get a list of titles, some of which are relevant. If you're lucky, there are covers by which to judge, but it's hard to tell at a glance how long, how old, what style.

I like going to the 940s and just looking.

I do think Pinterest does browsing pretty well - I almost never search for anything specific (srsly, mind just goes blank and I can't think of any search terms for anything I would like to see***) but I love looking through the odd assortment of things my friends - or even random pinners - have found. Sure, there's a lot I'm not interested in, but I find wonderful amazing things I would never have thought to seek out on my own.

I'm also a browsing shopper. I'll have a list, of course, but I always want to see ALL the things in case something else looks better or is a better deal, and I'll change meal plans accordingly.

Libraries, shopping, online ... do you tend toward browsing or the alternative?

* Yes, it's inescapable in larger libraries, and the alternative (getting rid of books altogether) is much worse. I'm still allowed to hate
it.

** the only thing I don't like about being a librarian? It's changed how I view/interact with libraries, even ones I don't work in. Gone are the days of being able to enjoy a library purely as a user.

*** With the exception of Doctor Who. I ALWAYS think of searching for the Doctor.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
chestnutcurls
Aug. 16th, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
I specifically search for other types of things, mostly to save time, but I'm totally with you on browsing for books. The thrill is in the hunt and not knowing what you might find!
eattheolives
Aug. 16th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
That's how I feel about clothes shopping, too. I find it soooo boring if I'm looking for something specifically. Like buying black dress slacks? Worst shopping trip ever.
katharhino
Aug. 16th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
TOTAL browser. Yes, in the grocery store too, just as you said. It's also why I waste so much time online. Someone posts an interesting link on FB and I'm off, clicking on links from that article, to others, which sparks an idea I then have to look up...

And I agree, books sitting in storage is sad.
eattheolives
Aug. 16th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
So much of online stuff feels non-browsable to me, but I do take those rabbit trails, too! Quite often. :D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )