Monday, August 15, 2011

Browsing, Libraries, & the Death of Serendipity

Image: Columbus Metropolitan Library Survey

I recently took an online survey for my library. The answers above struck me as I pondered how to answer. I realized that I no longer browsed shelves to find other like-kind titles. Instead, I am very mission driven when I enter the library. I have either placed a title on reserve, or I have ensured the title is available and have pulled the call number using the library's online catalog before I even set foot in the library. Even if the library were to institute a system within their online catalog to suggest additional titles (like Amazon), self-directed discovery has been lost.

I find this problematic for two reasons. First, I have found a number of interesting and though-provoking titles through serendipity--simply browsing the shelves and perusing titles at random. Second and more troubling, my library has become less about an experience and more about a transaction.

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