Posted by: Burlington Public Library (WA) | March 14, 2012

The Art of Browsing









The other evening, I was helping an enthusiastic young reader look for a particular book.  To her chagrin, it was checked out.  We put it on hold for her, and I suggested we browse for a different book she might like.  “Browse?” she repeated, as if she were feeling the word in her mouth for the first time.

I’m afraid that browsing is becoming a lost art.  Is cyberspeed changing our brains?  Does no one have the time to meander the shelves without aim, open to surprise, an open space within ready be filled with something of which we know not?

As Pam Kessinger, a librarian at Portland Community College, writes, “’No thanks, I’m just browsing’ is the phrase I love to imagine hearing library users say, as if they were perusing the books like they would the newest fashions, for their cachet and allure of uniqueness. Just looking, the implication would be, idly picking up visual cues and letting their minds wander, taking in ideas and forming juxtapositions.”

Your library: one place in which you can take your time and follow your nose, in public, for free.  And who knows where your nose might take you?  I know of one person who took home a book about Spain.  Her husband saw it and surprised her later that year with a trip to Madrid!

Your mileage may vary.  Come in and browse anyway: it’s good for your brain.

–Mary Beth








  1. Wabulous hubbub! Your eloquence inspires me. I shall henceforth browse. John C, AnCortes.

    • Great to know there’s an appreciative audience out there! Thanks for your comment, John. Anybody else have thoughts about browsing?
      Mary Beth

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