ALA Conference – Books to Go with Rachel Van Riel 6/23/12

June 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm 2 comments


How to increase circulation and patron satisfaction

Open the Book is a UK based firm.  was created in partnership with UK Libraries.  Her talk today is based on data gathered from UK libraries only, but she’d love it if librarians started gathering their own data in this country.
Libraries today under pressure financially, politically( prove worth) culturally (to justify our role.)
Reader- centered approach is best way to help.
Assumptions we make as librarians
  • Patrons will ask if they can’t find something
  • People know what that are looking for
  • Customers have plenty of time to spend at the library
Patron Reality
  • Most people are browsing
  • Few people ask staff for anything, especially with self serve and self checkout. You have more conversations if you are roaming, especially if you are carrying books. “Please ask me a question, I hate shelving” was a catchy badge used in one place.
  • Average visit to a public library is between five and ten minutes, including Internet users and those studying, so lots are less than 5 minutes.
  • 3 out of 4 shoppers in the States buy on impulse. 50% of decisions to buy are made after the customer enters the store.  We need to apply these statistics to our library patrons.
The Art of Choosing – more choice does not increase satisfaction.
Opening the Book research conducted in  UK libraries
How did you choose the book you got today – overwhelmingly, response was from displays.
200 user observations gathered.  Of those who stayed the least time – under 5 minutes – 43% checked something out. What were the others doing in under five minutes – probably came for a quick look and saw nothing tempting, so they left.
Books to go – small selection of books close to the door to tempt people. Display might be called Books to Go or “Quick choice”.  Don’t use  bestsellers  there since we know those will go out.  Instead, put up a great variety of books that patrons may have not discovered.
In many libraries, the first thing you see is huge circulation desk.  This is a barrier to interaction and browsing.  This harks back to the old days when lots of clerks were needed to check out books for patrons.  This is now outdated!
One example Ms Van Riel used was a display called Page One.  850 paperbacks put in that area account for  30% of fiction checkouts and 20% of total circulation.
Put book pods next to self checkout, put tabletops pods under windows and on the tops of tables.
How libraries present their books is a problem.
  • We have too many books to show well, so how do you make things choosable. We cram things!
  • Plan an area near the front of the library. Make a few hot spots. Usage of any unit falls off steeply when less than 70% full. Have top notch books.
  • Reader centered approach
Promotion is about motivation!
Sell the sizzle, not the sausages.
  • What the book can do for you, not what it is
  • More exciting and more engaging
  • Can mix different kinds of books to open up reading choices
  • More flexible units can top up with many different books… it is never empty.
Open up reading choices
  • Appeal beyond standard genres
  • Mix fiction and nonfiction
  • Bring books together from different parts of the library together
  • Create customer interest through humor, discovery and shared reading experience.
The new library is
  • Dynamic, not static
  • Tempting sight lines
  • Books keep changing
  • Staff out in the space and not behind the desk
  • Treat stock as dynamic, not static
  • Experiment with merchandising and promotions
  • Prioritize the 75% of impulse choosers.
This was an entertaining, informative and thought-provoking session that will challenge many traditional ideas about how libraries do things.  Although the speaker was sponsored by a vendor, she didn’t try to only sell us their products, but also give us some food for thought.  If nothing else, she has convinced me to get out of my chair at the reference desk and go out to the stacks and engage patrons more actively.

Entry filed under: conferences. Tags: , , .

A.L.A. Conference, Opening Day ALA Sessions ~ Reader’s Advisory in the e-book era; integrated advisory services.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deborah Smith-Cohen  |  June 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Where could one find similar statistics on length of stay, % of customers who interact with staff, and browsing behavior for US public libraries? Who is collecting this and how?

  • 2. genital herpes information page  |  July 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I visit every day a few web pages and sites to read articles or reviews,
    however this website gives quality based content.


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