Saturday, July 14, 2012

ALA 2012 Session: Books To Go!

Ever attend a lame-looking party and you don’t know if you should stay and hope it gets better or flee before you get trapped in a useless, fun-less black hole? Perhaps if you’d stayed you’d discover it was awesome (like me!), that they had free massages and a Mojito fountain, but the Mojitos were hidden away in the back and you’d already fled the scene.

That’s what a library is to a lot of people; a cool place they barely venture into.

Did you know the average UK library visit is less than 5 minutes? Or that no patron searching fiction at one library made it past the letter G? That’s right, just let the toddlers “shelve” the H section onward.

Why is this so?

According to Rachel Van Riel, director of Opening the Book, librarians assume that people a) know what we want, b) have the time to find it and c) will ask for help. But the truth is (in my words):

We don’t know what we want.
I don’t browse the library for books I want to read. I, first world citizen, shop online for those. The library is for items accidentally stumbled upon.

We have no time.
When you’re busy a library visit isn’t a refreshing treat; it’s an errand…an errand that ranks beneath buying groceries, milking surgical drains, and corralling your "house guest" of 10 months (not a typo) to clean up.

(Me: “Is your room clean?” Snotty Entitled Teenager: “It’s clean.” Me: “Send me a picture.”)

We don’t ask for help.
Help is a last resort for when we’re wandering around the desert because Google Maps was incorrect and we’re out of bottled water.

Solution: Books To Go displays

This is when the vendor tries selling us products. (They’re a business, not a non-profit.) However, they had the money to research what works. Essentially it’s a display set up right inside the library doors that allows people who don’t know what they want and neither have the time to find it nor to ask questions to spot something attractive, grab it and go. Libraries using these displays report that the 5% of items placed on display account for 30% of checkouts. Since SPL is sadly lacking in fountains of cash, I used a book cart.
Note: even if you don’t decorate your cart, clean it before stocking it.

Now, what should you stock it with? Skip the best sellers. It’s not like we have tons on the shelves. People will request book club titles. People can readily find 50 Shades of Grey…

It’s at Costco, next to pallets of LCD TVs and gallons of relish.

Fill it with nice looking older books, cookbooks, WWII stuff, DVDs, beach reads, duplicate copies, items piling up in the back because your branch was shut down for lack of AC, etc. The ideas are endless! It takes about 30 minutes to put together, including cleaning, selecting, and making a temporary sign. Hey, perfection is nice, but it's Saturday and I have storytime prep.

So get started today on Books To Go display and enjoy the music!

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