Join me in the electronic stacks!

Even though libraries are open for customers to quickly scan the shelves and select their own books, we still encourage you to try out eBooks and audiobooks. As the author of this article, Library staff member Sarah, says, “I’m never going back to print books.” Read why here…

One of my favorite things to do in the library is to walk between the shelves of books and look for something that calls out to me. I’ll pick a subject, and walk slowly, grazing the shelves for an author, or a cover, or a blurb, that catches my attention. Then maybe I’ll read the back, or assess how the book feels in my hand. Eventually I will pick one or two to bring home and try. The best—the best!—feeling is when I find I actually like the book I chose almost at random.

In reader’s advisory services (when library staff help patrons find a book they would like to read), we sometimes call this a “serendipitous discovery.” There is something beautiful and poetic about the phrase that really does speak to the incredible feeling of taking a book home simply because you were curious about the blurb on the back only to find that you love it, perhaps encountering a new author or a whole new genre.

Needless to say, I grieved the loss of this experience when library branches closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The night before the branches closed I went to my closest library and checked out as many books as I could, but when my reaction to stress is to read, they didn’t last long.

Until April, I had read only a handful of ebooks, and that was back in 2007 when I had an early Kindle, which I broke a year later and never replaced. But when I ran out of physical library to books to read, I knew I had to give it a try. And I wasn’t the only one! According to Overdrive, the borrowing of ebooks this summer went up over 50% compared to the same time last year.

And I’m never going back!

Why do I love ebooks?

  • I can have several loaded onto my device at a time so there’s always something for my mood.
  • I can read a 400 page book without hurting my wrists holding up the weight.
  • I can read at night in bed without needing an additional light on.
  • I can put books on hold and have them delivered straight to my device.
  • I can use a variety of devices and access all of my library materials across platforms.

My favorite thing about checking out ebooks from the library? Browsing. With just a little practice using the filters, I can spend a relaxing few (or more) minutes looking for a serendipitous discovery. Here are some browsing tips:

In OverDrive, the Library's "Collections" tab is pure gold.

  • You'll find creative categories you didn't even realize you were missing in your life, like Queer Black Love, Banned Books, or my most recent favorite, Hold Onto Your Butts: Jurassic Park Reads. When browsing these collections via Overdrive or the Libby app, make sure to click the “See All” buttons to see the whole collection. 









Search by subject.

  • Whether you’re in the mood for Science Fiction or Young Adult Fantasy, OverDrive has a category for that.





Get immediate gratification!

  • Ever get excited about an ebook only to see it has a 17 week long waitlist? This is where it helps to make the “Available now” filter option your friend. By choosing Filters>Available Now, your search results will be limited to books you can check out immediately. For me, this is a key step to mimicking the experience of browsing the physical shelves. You can also further narrow your search between ebooks or audiobooks to make sure you’re getting results most relevant to your current needs.













Take your time, and let yourself explore.

  • When browsing in the library stacks, we’re limited by the space and organizational system around us. But online, the vast array of links and categories enables us to easily move from one search result, to all titles from one specific author, to another category all together. Also, titles that may fall into multiple categories (like, say, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, one of my OverDrive discoveries, which is listed on OverDrive as both Science Fiction and Romance) will show up in your subject searches under multiple subjects, as opposed to having only one possible home on the physical shelves. We can search by release date, popularity, and more.

Even though our libraries have opened for customers to quickly scan the shelves and select their own books, it is still safer to stay home, where you can take all the time you need to find your next book. If you haven’t already discovered the joys of e-reading, consider giving it a try. You can use a Kindle, a tablet, or even your phone to find your own serendipitous discovery while never changing out of your pajamas. 

Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist is a library fan girl thrilled to be working as a Graduate Assistant for the Pima County Public Library while working toward her Master's degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Arizona, where she is a Knowledge River Scholar. She is currently reading The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, while also re-reading one of her favorite Romance series by Courtney Milan.

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