The Cat has a fondness, as a heavy library user, for the developing field of library merchandising. She urges librarians to consider and share its ideas.
The Cat, like most cats, likes pleasant surprises. She likes bumping her whiskers on a book and finding it a great read. So, when faced with row after row of ranges neatly labeled with catalog signage, the Cat is tempted to let out a seriously Siamese howl. It would have an interesting effect on library users, but many might agree with the translation into English, which is “Get those things out of the tomb!” Research has shown that when a collection is effectively showcased to the public, the circulation will go up.
The Cat’s friends at the State Library were aware of her interest in this field and invited her to participate in the 2008 Learning 2 Action Package on Merchandising and Marketing Collections. The Cat was fascinated by the variety of projects the participants posted to the Merchandising and Marketing page. Actually, this page is still wide open and any librarian who is doing interesting merchandising projects at their library is invited to post them to WebJunction Kansas.
A recent InfoPeople webinar called “Show it Off: Techniques for Increasing Circulation through Merchandising” had some really wonderful information on ways to handle this growing field. The SLK Library Development Division has just posted an article on this workshop, with a link to the rich resources created by Kathy Schalk-Greene. This article may be accessed at:
The Cat likes book displays, audiobook displays, video displays, ample New Book displays, collection neighborhoods, online reviews, staff picks, reading nooks, and comfortable chairs.
The Cat does monitor New Book Displays, feeling grateful for every special treasure they toss up. But in too many libraries, they are being asked to carry too much. There are treasures in the collection that are not brand new, but could be discovered – or re-discovered. Librarians are discovering the benefits of continually showcasing their collections in a way that allows continual discovery by the public. It does a book no good to be fascinating or useful if it is buried in the stacks and not read.
The Cat is too old (and too feline) to be starry-eyed about anything. Merchandising can be a tough sell for both library staff and library users. The Cat has been familiar with Dewey since she was a tiny kitten. It has been a very good system for finding the book you are looking for where it ought to be. One of the keys to successful merchandising is to treat the Dewey system with considerable respect.
If a large number of books on a topic have been removed to create an effective display, there should be a notice in the stacks about the display and where it can be found. If a library sets up collection neighborhoods, the library users should understand very clearly what sections have been moved and where they can be found. It would not have occurred to the Cat that With Love from Karen would be in the Health Neigborhood, but she found it easily enough and didn’t bother to hiss.
Many books are effectively displayed on shelf tops and end panels without moving them a significant distance from their proper Dewey home. The Cat was momentarily disappointed not to find Dragon Hunter in the Biographies under Andrews but she plucked it off the end panel and took it away.
Librarians and library users have been known to grumble that “bookstores aren’t such a great model. I can’t find what I’m looking for!” It is true that a good bookstore will make sure they have friendly, available personnel who are able to help people effectively. A good library will make sure of the same thing, regardless of how they choose to arrange their collections. Specialists in Merchandising agree that no library should begin a merchandising program unless they are willing to invest time in staff involvement, staff training, staff planning, staff discussion, staff buy-in. The major goals, which have been realized by many cutting-edge libraries, are staff enjoyment and community enthusiasm.
Merchandising is never a perfect system. Neither is Dewey. Most people want their library to be welcoming, colorful, interesting, and easy to use. They want high-demand, popular materials to be easy to find in a system that is natural to them. A serious commitment to merchandising the library can help accomplish all these things. Merchandising is a fast-growing library field because it does produce results for those who invest in it. The librarians who are investigating this new field, and investing in it, deserve thanks from all heavy library users and a purr from the