strategic browsing

One of our children librarians, Hunter, posted a video in April called SPINES . The video itself is simple—A dizzying montage featuring thousands of shelved books, spines facing outward.

So. Many. Books.

This video has inspired me to both voice a concern and offer a solution to a problem that many of us are suffering from: One moment you’re walking into the library feeling fine, excited to delve into your next literary escape; the next thing you know, you’re curled up on your couch watching your 7th instantplay netflix episode in a row and wondering how you ended up like this.

There are some fortunate few that have mastered the art of the book find. They can walk into the library at any time and on any day and walk out with the perfect book. But what if you, like me, aren’t one of the lucky ones? Well, this often means one of two scenarios: either I wander into the stacks with only a vague notion that I’d like something “good.” OR, I know exactly what I want, and I want it fast. Refusing to be distracted, like a 5th grader who needs the 2nd DORK DIARIES book. It’s DORK DIARIES or die.

In both situations, the results can be disastrous. Either the sight of too many spines defeats my dwindling energy reserves, or I find that my book is checkedout and a hold list of 45 just doesn’t seem worth it. I go home defeated.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior can become chronic if left unchecked, so I prescribe some war room type strategic browsing.

Scenario: You wander into the library thinking it’s time to read Harry Potter for the 6th time. You have this theory that reading all seven books seven times will inspire the headmaster to finally send you your letter. You check with the librarian… No copies available and a 4 week wait. You drift towards the intimidating shelves thinking it’s time to just head home.

Pause! Take a minute to realize that you’re past the Hogwarts entrance age anyway and should probably read something else. Now go through these steps:

One: Have A Destination
Head for your original target. Don’t worry that it’s not on the shelf because now you have a purpose.

Two: Keep Your Eyes Peeled
WWII bombers knew when they’d reached their target by spotting the lights of the cities, hence the blackouts. Luckily books aren’t that clever. While you walk, start scanning. No need to panic, just watch the shelves waiting for something to catch your eye.

Did you see it?

Three: Examine The Target
Pick up the book and leaf through it. Interesting? If not, set it aside and pick up something nearby. If nothing else looks interesting, move on. Just be brave enough to touch the eyecatching volumes.

Four: Do A Fly By 
You’ve reached your destination but already know it’s not on the shelf. Start closely scanning everything near your original target. Let this be the only truly thorough part of your mission: just two minutes of real work. Pick up anything that looks remotely interesting taking comfort in the fact that the rejects can be thrown on the reshelving cart without a second thought.

Five: Head Home
Circle back to the front. Take the long way and skim the titles as you go. By the time you’ve made it to checkout, you’ll have a small pile of success in your arms and not a shred of anxiety, unless it’s the fear that you may not speak to another human for 4 days while you enjoy the spoils of your victory. But that’s OK. Revel in your conquest. You earned it.

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