Anna Szczepanski is an avid library user who also works with small rural libraries across Western Colorado as a consultant for the Colorado Consortium of Libraries (CLiC).

What would you do if I told you there is something new and wonderful that you can do “online?” You might want to plug your ears. Avert your eyes. Perhaps groan. 

If so, I would understand. I am weary of Zoom meetings. I disabled my Facebook. Microsoft Teams does not a team member make. Do not even get me started on webinars, online conferences, and virtual school.   

But there is one thing I have grown to love even more in my screen-rich pandemic life than I did previously: the online library catalog. Oh no, you may think, she is one of those people who reads books on her phone. Nope. I like real pages that turn, are printed with ink, wrinkle if dampened. I love the heft of a book.  

When the Grand County Library District (GCLD) had to switch to curbside service earlier this year, there was no way to browse the shelves. So as an avid library user, I pivoted too. I began to browse the online catalog instead. And what I discovered is magic.   

GCLD is part of a consortium of 29 Colorado Libraries called “Marmot.” When you search the catalog (, you have access to over 900,000 books, audiobooks, DVDs, and other items.  

Online shopping is not my thing. However, online library book browsing is a habit I can really get behind.  And the best thing about it? No creeping credit card bill. No books littering my shelves for years to come. I get to read, enjoy, and return.   

So, here are my top three tips for making the most of this most excellent tool: 

Tip #1: Search for nothing.   

Leave the search box empty and click “Go,” the result is ALL the books. Everything out there in 29 libraries, to the tune of 912,228 results. That many results would be overwhelming, except there is a series of drop-down menus by which you can narrow your search. Just want audio books?  Click on “Format”. Only want books written at a preschool level?  Click “Reading Level”.  Only want the latest and greatest? Try “Added in the Last” (Day, Week, Month, etc.)   

Tip #2: Check out the “Browse Categories” on the catalog home page.  

When you walk into a GCLD library, the librarians have created fun displays that highlight certain book topics or genres, perhaps on hiking books or self-improvement. The browse category titles on the Online Catalog are the same thing: books highlighted to pique your interest.  

Tip #3: Turn on your Reading History.  

We’ve all been there: you’ve been waiting for a book, and you excitedly crack the cover and start reading. Something seems a little familiar about it. And then it dawns on you: you have read it before. Drat! Checking your reading history can make this a less likely experience.  

Thankfully, the library stacks are now open again for traditional book browsing. I find treasures on the shelves that I may have missed in the online catalog. But I will not abandon my online catalog habit.