Virtual ‘Library Explorer’ Digitally Recreates the Thrill of Browsing Endless Book Stacks

Public lending libraries developed in the United States in the latter half of the 19th century, and to this day they remain an important local institution. From offering computers, classes, and (of course) books to patrons of all ages, libraries are beloved by the community. During the pandemic, many people miss leisurely wandering the aisles of the local library and pulling plastic-sheathed books off the shelves.

Although it cannot quite replace the crinkling noise of book covers, the website Internet Archive is working to bring the thrill of browsing library shelves to the safety of your own home. Their Library Explorer allows users to browse 3D shelves by subject, age, date, and other sorting criteria. While you could just search for a title you already know, the magic of library shelves—real and virtual—is discovering new reads.

Begin your Library Explorer journey by paging across tall bookshelves. Every shelf is full of titles that are organized by subjects such as “Painting,” “German Literature,” and “History of Europe.” Each of these categories has arrows for flipping through by call number. The virtual library is even customizable to your taste. Do you prefer 3D book spines or books laid flat? Do you only wish to see books published after 1985? You can also select a “juvenile” setting if you are looking to introduce your kids to the virtual library. Among the thousands of books available, everyone is sure to find something to their taste.

And if you are feeling especially adventurous, you can use the “Random Book” feature. With the click of a button, the virtual library presents you with a fascinating book you've probably never read.

The online books of this virtual library are available for varying lengths of time. Some you can peruse as much as you like while others you can check out for only an hour. To get started, simply create an account and begin saving books you would like to read. Your account will keep track of your loans and reading log.

Internet Archive hopes to one day have a record for every book ever published; this project is time-consuming, yet worthwhile. Whether you are looking to read great literature, vintage pulp fiction, or math textbooks for your calculus class, get started with Library Explorer.

Internet Archive's Library Explorer makes the thrill of searching library shelves for hidden gems to check out available to all (safely) online.

h/t: [Mashable]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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