Marketing – just the word can make even the most capable librarian feel faint. Many librarians feel that they should not have to market their collections that the materials should speak for themselves. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Today’s patrons do not have the time to browse the library for hours on end. Librarians need to ensure that every patron finds what they need even if they do not know that they need it.
Librarians need to think creatively about their collections by taking time to browse the stacks for inspiration. Public libraries rely on circulation numbers the way retailers rely on sales figures. Retailers create displays to attract attention and arouse interest to generate sales. Creating different types of displays in a library has the same effect on circulation statistics.
Although business can be a dirty word in the library world, a library is a business like any other. Patrons visit with a specific purpose in mind. Whether that purpose is to find information for work, a project, or a book for the beach, they want to find what they need quickly and easily. Here are a few tips to help you think like a retailer.
Create thematic displays. People like to browse displays for inspiration and different ideas of what is “out there” to read. Much like an impulse purchase, many library patrons check out something on the fly because it’s on a display and intrigues them. For example, displays of materials on diet and exercise for January capitalize on people’s resolutions to lose weight. Christmas craft books do well in November when people are thinking of the gift-giving season. Opening day of baseball season is a great time to highlight biographies of classic bats such as Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Hot summer nights lend themselves to cookbooks focusing on barbeque, salads, and other “cold” supper offerings.
The celebrity factor. People love a good scandal. Keeping up with stories in magazines like People and then showcasing related biographies and tell-all books of other celebrities heightens interest in additional items in your collection. The same is true of political scandals, contentious news issues, and royal weddings. Keeping abreast of the zeitgeist and creating displays accordingly, makes the library a relevant place to go for “further information.”
Create “neighborhoods.” Cancer is one of the most frightening illnesses on the planet. For someone newly diagnosed and the caretakers of them, creating a “cancer neighborhood” is a way to pull all the resources that your library has together in one area. Think about diagnostic books, books that discuss dealing with the illness for patients, books for caregivers, hospice providers dealing with the terminal illness of their patients, and cookbooks with recipes for meals that patients undergoing chemotherapy are able to tolerate.
Tailor displays to what is of interest to the community, check the current circulation statistics to see what goes out and how often. By catering to the community; libraries can build a legion of satisfied, engaged patrons.