One Way to Merchandising Your Collection

We all have experienced how bookstores merchandise their collection. Next time you are in a book store walk around with an eye to how they use their space. The sales team targets their display space to focus the attention of customers on all they have to offer, while at the same time trying to lessen information overload.

How many of us have bought a book(s) on impulse while browsing because the display caught our attention? Have you ever noticed the placement of these items? Prime display areas are close to the front entrance so that customers will see them as they enter the store.

Look at the ends of stacks in areas that appear to have a lot of foot traffic. What do you see as you stand in line waiting to check out?  How many impulse buys have you made while standing in a particularly long line during the holidays?  Last year's bestsellers that have gone to remainder are often impulse buys for me. I can always think of someone who might like that book!

Dewey or Don’t Ask

Most of Maine’s public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System to organize their collections. We have learned to believe that this is what is best for our patrons.  After all, how would we librarians find things on the shelves if we didn’t have some order?

But the behavior of our patrons tells us something different.  Many of our patrons are confused by the way we order things.  If they don’t understand it, they don’t want to ask unless absolutely necessary. If the patron doesn’t have an item on the reserve shelf, chances are that his/her selection is made while browsing.  The merchandising model that book stores use can be easily adapted for our libraries.

Customer Driven Service

If you want to better serve your patrons, create distinctive displays that will capture their interest the minute they walk through the library door.  Make sure you keep the displays well stocked.  Change it out every three or four weeks. Include all formats. Peak their interest with captivating signage that will draw their attention.  Sit down with staff and/or volunteers to brainstorm what themes you want to do. 

It won’t take long before you have enough ideas to carry you through the year.  There are endless possibilities! Don’t just focus on your adult patrons, do something in the Children’s Room as well. Take it a step further and make a display for adults in the Children’s Room as well so that those parents who are in with their children have a chance to browse here as well.

Is It Worth It?

You might not have the staff to do a full blown Readers’ Advisory Service, but every library, regardless of size, can take this simple tip and turn it into a great passive Readers’ Advisory aid that your patrons will appreciate. 

Want to gauge whether this works or not? Start with a fixed number of items for your display. Check the depletion rates of the display a couple of times each day by checking how many books you have to add to maintain the original number.  Keep a record. There is no limit to the fun you will have doing this and the interest you will generate with your users.  You could even run a contest to get them to suggest themes. 

If you haven’t used this merchandising technique, try it!