Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Browsing Myth

On the “Myth of Browsing” (American Libraries Magazine):
Although today’s academic library users may feel that browsing is an ancient scholarly right, the practice is in fact no older than the baby-boomer faculty who so often lead the charge to keep books on campus. Prior to the Second World War, the typical academic library was neither designed nor managed to support the browsing of collections. At best, faculty might be allowed to browse, but it was the rare academic library that allowed undergraduates into the stacks. To this day academic-library special collections—real treasure troves for scholars in the letters and humanitie [sic]—remain entirely closed to browsing.
Image: A student in the stacks (Princeton, circa 1970)