Most libraries have failed to develop a visual merchandising strategy to help print compete with new technologies. In the design and renovation process, much effort is invested in architecture and décor, (which I see as very important), however this is often a contemporary veneer around an outdated visual merchandising strategy (I’m referring to the print collection). Take school libraries for example, I have met with countless people who question whether Non Fiction print is now irrelevant. These schools have keep abreast of developments in technology over the past 20 years. However, during this time, the faded, poorly weeded Non Fiction collection has remained on tall, dated shelving arranged in narrow isles to the rear of the room. Rarely is a book displayed face-out and little or no innovative signage solutions have been developed to help print compete with online resources. There’s really no more they could have done to make the collection look less appealing! I would like to highlight that I am a keen supporter of online resources and new technologies, as well as proactive weeding of the print collection. However, I believe we cannot make an informed judgment on the relevance of books until we create a level playing ground between print and new technologies.
I am concerned about public libraries that rely heavily on the Internet to maintain customer numbers. Free access is no longer a point of difference in many communities, so the strategy is loosing relevance.
A library should be the community’s shared living room – cleverly selected furniture is a platform to achieve this. Use seating as a marketing tool and create innovative spaces for meetings, independent and collaborative work.
When building or renovating Public Libraries, consider opportunities to benefit from traffic generated by council services that share the building. Become a destination. If deemed viable, incorporate a café, art space, garden area or small business incubator into new branches.
I think it is important for library staff to take on board an architect’s ideas on design – providing they are innovative! Equally, I think it is imperative that the architectural team accommodates the libraries current and emerging operational needs.
Attracting a younger audience into Public Libraries is too complex to address in a paragraph. I must however stress that image drives perception and the solution is much bigger picture than simply creating a teen zone – a concept I find quite dated. The marketing strategy, resources and overall image need to be relevant.
I think many libraries will benefit from merchandising their collection in genre-based precincts. I know a number of libraries that have implemented this very successfully and enjoyed a marked increase in loans as a result. In education, this concept might mirror the curriculum.
In education, I have observed many libraries renamed Learning Commons or alike as a strategy to remain relevant. This often comes without significant cultural change (disposing of print does not equate to innovation!). In most instances, I see this name change as an example of not ‘walking the talk’. I’m a change advocate, though I don’t see any value in throwing away the Library brand. The concept of a library is not unique to print – iTunes is a library!
I believe every library would benefit from clear directional signage in Non Fiction. Dewey caters to needs, but what are you doing to attract impulse loans?
Investing in RFID and self-check technology and maintaining a traditional style circulation desk alongside new technology is almost like saying “don’t bother” to the customer.
I believe there should be a level of uniformity across a library network. Particularly a Public Library Service. l support tailoring the design, décor and collection to branch-based demographic. However, I am referring to branding. That is, taking a uniform approach to all signage and print collateral. It not only looks professional, but also helps build presence in the community and reinforces a group of libraries work together. This is a fundamental principal of marketing and promotion.
I understand there is more to a library than loan stats, however it is important not to discount the relevance of these as a benchmark. To this end, I ask all libraries, “what would you change about your library if you were to receive a dollar in your personal bank account for every item borrowed”?
Frequently, I note the implementation of Maker’s Spaces in libraries is less impressive than the colourful words that surround it’s description. In most instances, I am more excited by the Maker’s Space initiatives that can be put in place than the compartmentalised approach to creating the physical space.
Importantly, never allow a lack of funding to hold you back as you do not need to spend a lot to make a difference!