Thursday, March 10, 2011

Browsing the Shelves

Being a librarian makes you a different library patron. When I visit libraries, I see them with different eyes. I scrutinize their signage, their furniture, their collections, and their staff. Even browsing the collection is different because I know how libraries are organized (or, at least, I can probably figure out where specific subjects are fairly quickly because I know what to look for.)

It's no secret that I love being on-desk. I absolutely enjoy looking up information for people and connecting them with library materials. I encourage people to ask questions and I always try to be approachable. Lord knows when I go into a hardware store, I need help finding that elusive little screw my husband sent me in for, so I ask the staff for help.

Here's where I'm going with this. I'm envious of patrons. I miss the days of browsing library shelves, just stumbling upon what might be there. Even when I browse through the fiction shelves, I recognize author names and have an idea of what kind of books they write. I can't just stumble into the 500s in non-fiction without knowing I'm going to find books about math and science. I hear patrons all the time saying things like, "Oh look! Poetry!" or "Windows 7 DVDs - I could use that!" They didn't necessarily come to the library looking for it, but still found something interesting to them as they were walking by the shelves.

Of course, there are always books to discover in any section of the library. I don't know every author and every book the library owns. Invariably, though, my eye is drawn to the familiar. I wonder how many items I miss out on experiencing because I don't browse as well as a non-librarian. I have pre-conceived notions and expectations about what will be there when I walk down an aisle.

I tend to read books that cross my desk for one reason or another. I see announcements of award winners. I watch the bestseller list. I hear co-workers and patrons talk about books. It is really rare that I just walk through the stacks of any library to see what might be there.

I am attracted by a pretty cover, though. Whenever I make an effort to read something new, different, less-known, or outside my comfort zone, I go for books with interesting covers.

In the end, I guess it's a trade-off. I am aware of resources that patrons may never stumble on, and they find things by accident that I may never notice.

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