My Vow to Browse

When I visit a library with the sole intent of choosing my next book, I tend to become borderline robotic. In fact, last week I embarked on Mission: Obtain this month’s Book Club selection. I looked up the call number online, went to the library, grabbed the book, and left. I was in the library for no more than two minutes. If a million dollars was sitting on the shelf below my book, Justin Bieber was manning the reference desk, or the periodicals were on fire, I didn’t notice. I was on a mission. Must.Get.Book. (Spoken in robot voice).

That high-speed library mission got me thinking about the last time I entered a library without a specific book in mind. I decided it was probably sometime in fifth grade. These days I usually know, or at least have an idea of, what I want, and look at nothing else. Must.Get.Book. In a library full of infinite browsing possibilities, my robot-like obstinacy keeps me focused exclusively on what (I think) I want, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

Luckily, librarians have the ability to humanize me by crafting displays of books that I would likely never find on my own. When confronted by this type of indirect readers’ advisory, Robot-Sarah yields to thoughts (also in robot voice) like “This book is not why I am here, but it looks awesome and I must get it.” This is hardly “browsing” in its broadest sense, but is far more flexible than the Must.Get.Book. approach. The displays are invaluable to casual or bewildered browsers, so librarians put requisite thought and effort into creating them. As someone who often shuns browsing in favor of pursuing a premeditated title, it is sometimes helpful to get librarians’ book suggestions without even having to ask. I love, love, LOVE books, and hope to someday be in a position where I can help inform patrons’ book choices through a simple, yet calculated display.

Consequently, let it be known that I, Sarah Barton, henceforth pledge to short-circuit my robotic library tendencies and take a vow to espouse the inclination to browse.


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