Saturday, February 3, 2018

How browsing patrons are like deer

Sometimes, while walking in the woods with my wife, we come upon deer. And the deer, being of a cautious nature, will startle and run away from our approach. But as we are walking in the direction they flee we only come upon them again, startling, causing them to flee leaping through the grasses into the deeper woods, to safety, and to the obscurity away from us. Where we come upon them again.

Eventually the deer get sick of this, or get lucky, and they run off at an angle from us, and/or, frustrated, go farther away, and we don't see them again.

Meanwhile there are the library patrons, they who forage among our fiction books and who abide by their own strangely consistent, inscrutable behaviors.

I shelve in an alphabetical manner, working through a cart of alphabetized books. If I come upon a fiction browser in, say, the "J"s, he or she will invariably startle and move to the next row to browse in peace. But after shelving five or ten books I will enter that next row, disturbing their reverie. They will then break from their searching and move onto the next row, where I will disturb them again.

But unlike the deer these browsers mysteriously never break the chain, and, eventually, I will have pushed the browser along in front of me clear through the end of fiction and on into the start of the mystery section. At that point I will have emptied all of my cart. And, finished, I will have headed back downstairs.

And there the end result is the same; the browser, just like the deer, will be finally, happily, alone.


  1. My, that was a lovely comparison! I love to browse the library but have rarely had the shelver come upon me, tho if he or she did, I would move on to the next letter like your Minnesotan browsers. I wonder if they, like me, are browsing for nothing in particular but what will catch their eye? In some cases judging books by their covers or saying, "I've always wanted to read ______________!"

    1. Thank you. I think they are just looking for a bit of book magic because I'm always half doing that myself even as I shelve. I always have to restrict myself to taking 2 books at most though because they look way more appealing to read when I'm shelving than they do when I'm at home and those same books have to compete with better things.

    2. Yes, same here. I have found I give up on books a lot more often than I used to. However, I am on a streak of finishing the last three I started!

  2. Very nice analogy. My approach when shelving in this situation was to move on to the next row myself, then coming back. Or I would often leave the cart at the end of the row and carry 3-4 books to be shelved. That seemed less likely to spook the cervid patrons.

    1. Cervid patrons! Ha!

      I've used your technique too if I'm getting bugged, or feel they have more rights to the row than me (they do!), but they've been known to follow me, perhaps sensing that quality literature clusters around me.


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