Browsing

Bix brings up an interesting article about a new library in Long Island City that took 20 years and $41 million to make. But that was not the interesting part. Bix keyed in on this quote from Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokesperson for the Queens Public Library and a retort from a city resident:

“Our staff has been and will continue to retrieve books for customers, and we are going to offer devices that will allow customers to browse the materials available in those areas.”

[...]

[Joe] Bachner, who asked about accessibility during his visit, said the library's offer to fetch books misses the point.

“Browsing is part of the enjoyment of going to the library,” he said.

Browsing is part of the enjoyment. But I find it ironic that I do more of the opposite here – Bix read the article and I grabbed a quotation of the article from him. No need to browse. Then again, I was browsing his blog and happened across the post. And I know not how he came across the article in question – perhaps in a similar way as I did or perhaps not (unless if you care to explain Bix).

This brings up an interesting point – “browse” is not a catch-all term. There are many different types of browsing one can do. The person who asks for the librarian to retrieve a book for her could have browsed an online newsletter and came across the book. Is that the same kind of browsing as combing the fiction shelves?

How can we better attune ourselves to the different forms of browsing? How can knowing these inform how we operate on the web and outside of it?