Cindy Orr provides industry news and ideas for increasing access in her monthly blog post.

Research has shown that the number of public library readers who find their books by browsing, outnumbers those who search the catalog. (See The Responsive Public Library by Sharon L. Baker.) At least that used to be the case. But, according to Laura Larsell, information ontologist (despite the fancy name, she holds a library degree) at Trapit, a company developing a content discovery platform, as we became comfortable with the computer world over the years, we lost browsing to searching.  She says it’s now time to put more effort into improving the browsing experience on the screen.

Obviously, things are changing quickly in the book business. The first big change was the ability to easily buy books online. The latest change is the ability to buy or borrow digital books and download them instantly. Some readers have noticed that when they began buying books online, they stopped going to bookstores. It was just much more convenient to have their books mailed to them. But now their switch to digital books is even more drastically affecting how they shop.

In a recent post, Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, explains how her book-buying habits have changed since she’s gone digital. She likes to browse physically, but buy digitally, but says she feels like a “douchebagel” when she browses in a bookstore, then goes home and buys the eBook. Her suggestion: bricks and mortar bookstores (and libraries) should make it possible to browse physically, then buy or borrow digitally, right there in their own buildings. Her article gets even more interesting, though, when you take a look at the reader comments. Be sure to check out her readers’ responses for ideas that might work in the library world, too.

Ikea, according to the Economist, has picked up on a different aspect of digital books. They’ve begun redesigning their bookshelves, making them deeper so they can be used to display tchotchkes and other things once people cut back on the number of print books they have in their homes. (Ikea denies this reasoning for their deeper bookcase.) I don’t know about you, but somehow, just knowing this brings the real impact of digital books home to me.

Leo S. Lo, an academic librarian, sees the issue a bit differently. In a recent article, he proposes that the problem is that there’s a disconnect between the physical and the digital collections in libraries. When people browse the physical collection, they miss the online resources. When they search the online resources, they overlook the physical collection. He believes that QR codes are the available bridge between the two worlds right now (besides librarians of course).

For instance, you could put a QR code on books about a particular subject, and when patrons scan the QR code with their mobile phone, they would be referred to the relevant digital resources. Lo also thinks that mobile technology could help bring people back to the physical library space by using location technology to refer them from digital resources to physical resources available inside the library building. And the referral could include a map with directions on how to get to the library based on the mobile phone’s location technology.

So browsing and searching and the implications of both are going to be a big part of the territory as we get set to move to the next level of content discovery using the latest technology. But, as Lo says, “At the bare minimum, we must not be slower than our users.”

Guess it’s time to begin thinking really hard about access.

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