Browsing, or What I Have Learned from 11 AM to Noon

By Jill E. Erickson, Head of Reference and Adult Services

Over the past few weeks I have been spending an hour of my time chatting with people who are waiting outside to pick up library materials.  It has been such a pleasure for me to actually talk mask to mask with people for the first time in many months.  Yes, I have been answering telephone calls and emails, as well as texting, sending postcards and talking about books on WCAI during the months we have been closed, but none of this has involved seeing people in person.  What a joy it has been to actually have real time conversations, look people in the eyes, and know that we would be shaking hands if we could.


Chatting with our patrons has been a real education for me in what people most miss about not being allowed into the building. Sure they have missed seeing us, and ask When are you going to open?  However, the number one comment about what people miss the most, is browsing the library stacks! Of all the things we had considered that people might miss, I don’t think we were fully aware of how much people love to browse the stacks.  As someone who grew up going to public libraries from a very young age, you would think I would have considered the heartbreak that comes when you you can’t browse in the library that you love.   

We have tried to meet this need by creating browsing carts, which we deeply know is not enough, but is something. The East Falmouth Branch has the most browsing carts at this point, because they have the best location for it. The main library, where I spend my days, now has a small browsing cart of Express books (which means no one else can put a hold on those copies) and of Express DVDs. Originally, we put carts out at Noon, rather than when we first opened the doors at 11:00 AM. After hearing person after person tell me between 11 and noon that what they most missed was browsing, I asked Tammy Amon, the Head of Circulation, if she would be willing to put them out earlier. So now they do go outside when we first open for pickup.

The first definition in the Oxford English Dictionary for the word browse is “To feed on the leaves and shoots of trees and bushes; to crop the shoots or tender parts of rough plants for food: said of goats, deer, cattle.” So now I think of browsing on books as a real nourishment for our minds and hearts, and we hope that you will be browsing again inside the building before long.

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