Library Camp: Retail and advertising

In my blog post about Library Camp I missed out two sessions:

What can libraries learn from retail? and Advertising

For me, those were the most interesting ones I attended, so I wanted to dedicate a whole post to them. Also, I had too many notes to write a quick overview on Sunday. This post will still mainly be scribbled notes, as otherwise this post will stay in my draft folder for ages! Italics are my comments, the rest simple notes on what was said.

What can libraries learn from retail?

  • If people spend more time in the library they will borrow more. < I’m not sure about that one. People can spend 4 hours on a computer (plus waiting time for one to become free) and still leave without a book.
  • Spend some time people-watching to see where they go to do what. Follow them.
  • Make good displays, show book covers (face-on), make besteller (most borrowed) lists. Use the returns trolley to promote stock. Make sure staff don’t re-shelve all the returns immediately!
  • Use people’s queuing time to advertise to them. People also like mirrors to look at themselves. Idea: Give them poems to read while they wait.
  • Give them chairs and comfy places to sit. They will spend more time at your library.
  • Give them bags/baskets. They will take more stuff home.
  • Introduce floorwalking. People like staff contact. Train staff who mainly shelve books, so they can answer basic enquiries. < Staff training is so very important! Properly trained staff have more pride in their job.
  • Swap with a shop assistant to see how it is to work in a shop. < You’ll be grateful to work in a library.
  • Use mystery shoppers. < Volunteer to be a mystery shopper. It’ll give you a new perspective on your own library.
  • Try zoning. This means you can offer different users different spaces for different uses. These zones can be temporary and sctreened off with temporary barriers. Try using pull-up banners instead of making static spaces.< Great idea if you have a big area.
  • You need both comfy and study areas. They can be mixed, as some people will enjoy studying on a sofa while other like reading a novel at a desk (or any other variations of this).
  • Don’t put anything in the entrance/transition zone of your library – nobody looks at much in the first few metres. Make it bright and smelling nice. < Apparently Newcastle Central Library has a special aircon anti-smelly device in their ceiling that sprays nice smells regularly. I must find out how that works and if we can have one where I work. This could be the best discovery to come out of Library Camp!
  • Hide specific stock at the back. People who need something specific will look for it. < Very true. They’ll even go upstairs!
  • If you have a coffee shop promote it as “learning cafe” rather than “coffee shop in the library”. < Think about what’s more important: library or coffee?!
  • Set up your enquiry desk outside the library (esp. good for HE). < Love this. I always have good experiences when going outside the building like this. Try going to summer fairs, etc.
  • Frontline staff attitudes have to change: their job is to get people to borrow! Eye contact important too.
  • Invest in staff training!!!
  • Lots of people don’t know that libraries are free. < Start by telling your friends.
  • Try different things and see what works best. < Also a good way to sell ideas to management, “it’s a pilot”.

For views from the facilitators read Anna Martin’s post on the same topics here, and again, Jo’s post about libraries and retail strategies. Jo would also like people to get in touch for a study on what little changes can achieve.

Advertising and why do public libraries not do it?

  • The main things that bring people in (and back) are customer service and stock selection.
  • PR works best for one narrow subject: market, target, make it seasonal (e.g. beach reads)
  • Cross-marketing, link sales: tell people about other offers in the library
  • Change the library’s culture: management must remember that frontline staff are the ones that people see and interact with. make frontline feel loved!
  • Build relationships with other organisations, so that they know about libraries and also tell their partners.
  • Define your target groups.
  • Use free newspapers and radio for advertising
  • Play on people’s competitiveness, e.g. reading challenge: which school gets the most completers.
  • Only 1% of library income comes from fines. Fine amnesties are good PR and cost you hardly anything.
  • Often only marketing to current library users. What about non-users?
  • Should we charge membership fees? Other countries do it. “Free” is not valued. If you charge a small fee for things like IT sessions people are more likely to turn up.
  • Should we have uniforms?
  • Don’t ever underestimate word-of-mouth!!

Yesterday I bought Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy and The Call of the Mall online (unfortunately no Kindle edition), so I can read up about all this. (orry to see Anna was left with one copy too many, I would have bought it but thought she must have surely sold it by the end of the day.)

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3 Responses to Library Camp: Retail and advertising

  1. Pingback: My thoughts on Library Camp 2011

  2. Jo Alcock says:

    Thanks so much for the comprehensive write up!

    I didn’t get chance to attend the advertising one so it’s really useful to read that too – and I’m glad you found something of use from our learning from retail session. Please let me know if you do try any of these things out and if they help improve borrowing/no. of visitors.

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks for writing up notes on these – I went to both of these talks and really enjoyed them, but didn’t take notes…I’m glad someone else did! Looking forward to seeing what sort of difference they make!

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