Libraries Moving Into Shopping Areas To Attract Patrons

Libraries Moving Into Shopping Areas To Attract Patrons

How do we make the public library as convenient as Amazon or Netflix?

Laura Feinstein
  • 6 july 2010

It’s one of the main tenets of business that you bring your product where the demand is the highest and it’s most likely to get noticed. But what if your goal is to get today’s youth excited about reading? Logic says if you want to find the customer you’ve got to reach their favorite haunts, which in today’s society often includes the local mall. Recently, the Dallas Public Library system opened one of it’s newest branches, Bookmarks, at a local upscale mall – which has seen its readership soar. The library, primarily aimed at kids 12 and under, has been an extraordinary success based on the fact that it offers unconventional access to families who might otherwise not have the time or resources to make a trip to a traditional public library. However, this new marketing strategy for libraries is part of a grander plan to bring books, and public education, back into the everyday life of America.

Sari Feldman, president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association recently stated in regards to this new plan of attack :

“I think what’s happening now is really that focus on convenience. How do we make the public library as convenient as Amazon, Netflix? Part of that is putting library branches in the path of customer.We are very aware of the fact that our biggest advantage is that we’re free, but if time is actually a commodity for people, will people be willing to spend money rather than go to a library?”

More importantly, will this new concept work? Jo Giudice, youth services manager at Bookmarks has seen actual proof that this is actually a viable route for the library system to be taking. Guidice acknowledges that in the two years since it opened, it’s had to increase story times to 12 a week compared to the two or three at most branches. “It’s been extremely successful. Numbers have risen every month in respect to programming and book checkout… We’ve reintroduced the library to some young families.”

To those worried about the death of print, the faltering publishing industry, and the growing alarm over America’s reading habits, this may sound like music to sing to. However, this would be overlooking the fact that during the recession (and over the last decade in general) there’s been a general growth in overall public library use. Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that with stores shuttering across the nation, there is void where new libraries could potentially be placed. This is one of the brainstorm ideas Feldman (who is also executive director of Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Public Library in suburban Cleveland), has been brewing. Nine months ago, one of her branches opened a new location in a strip mall – whose affordable rent was made possible due to the large number of vacant shops lining the street. Another exciting aspect of this concept is that it’s also easy to maintain; Since the library “is arranged like a bookstore with a self-service focus”, it only needs a fraction of the staffers a full stand-alone branch would require.

Could this anti-pop up shop mean a new renaissance for the public library system? According to sources, In the first two months after it opened Bookmarks issued more than 700 library cards and two years after its opening at the mall has an inventory of about 5,000. And just as telling- it circulates as much as branches eight times that size with both adult and children’s books. On a more cynical note, it would be a thing of beauty to many to, instead of seeing a new chain store, be greeted with visions of children at sing alongs, yoga- and other services provided by this experimental library system. Something truly revolutionary to be thankful for this 4th of July season.

American Library Association

Yahoo: “Libraries focus on convenience with mall locations”

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