I distinctly remember “coming to” one evening when the librarian in charge abruptly turned the lights off at closing time. As a library patron, I had completely lost track of the time as I pored through book after book. It was especially memorable because I worked at that library full-time, and I certainly should have remembered the closing time! But I was so immersed in the printed world of human thought that the hours flew like minutes. There’s something magical about browsing happily through rows of books.
We librarians can’t read or browse books while we’re at work – it’s strictly business during work hours – so we miss the experience of browsing the stacks as much as our patrons do. I have often spent my free time in my own or a neighboring library, enjoying the serendipitous experience of discovering (or rediscovering) ideas and stories that fuel my understanding and imagination. Like our patrons, I was disappointed when COVID-19 took that enjoyable activity away for a while. E-books are great, but many avid readers (including myself) still enjoy the tactile experience of physical books.
While we all wish the pandemic would just go away and let us return to the things we love to do, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. At the libraries, we look forward to the day when we can safely let people come in and browse, whether by appointment or walk-ins.
Until then, here are some ways you can “browse” differently during the pandemic:
- Let a librarian choose for you. Tell them what you’re in the mood for, and they’ll pull titles for you to try. You may find that your local librarian can dig up better books than you would ever have stumbled across on the shelves yourself!
- Get extra books to browse at home. Put more titles on hold than you really need and take them home to browse. If you don’t like them, no big deal – just return them unread.
- Preview books online. Look up a book on Amazon or Google to read excerpts. It’s not quite the same as flipping through a book, but at least you can see some of the contents!
- Find suggestions online. Goodreads.com is a terrific place to stumble on new books, and the descriptions and reviews tell you a lot about whether you might like it or now. Sites like Amazon.com use special algorithms to show you things you might like based on your search history. NoveList is an online resource available through the library’s website that is specifically designed to help you find a book you’d like. And there are any number of book lists online that you can browse for ideas. Ask a librarian for their go-to resources!
If you “just want to come in and browse,” but can’t because libraries are closed – don’t stop there. Call us for ideas. We’re pretty good at finding things people would like to read, and we’ll find creative solutions to keep you stocked and pleasantly surprised.
Botetourt County Libraries