We're not a bookstore, but we can act like one!

I was inspired by Allison’s post over at ShelfTalker about handselling and merchandising, mostly because librarians and teachers can use this information and apply it to their own environments. Listen and watch Allison closely, young Padua learners.

I have listened to so many librarians grumble that a library “is not a bookstore” so, therefore, why do I have to listen to this nonsense about marketing and publicizing my books? It doesn’t apply to me. It doesn’t apply to what I do. My kids don’t care. My kids don’t read.

I do not exaggerate – I have heard all these things. And I'm sort of tired of it.

I argue that it means everything to you as a librarian. No, we’re not a bookstore, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t market ourselves like one. A commenter on Allison's blog states: booksellers, teachers, and librarians all have the same ultimate goal -- enticing others to read great books. So why wouldn’t you work ridiculously hard to show off what you have on your shelves? Even if you aren’t passionate about the books – and I can’t imagine that you’re not – then you can look at it pragmatically: whereas a bookstore is trying to sell books to stay in business, a library is trying to check books out to do the same. So there’s something wrong with the logic when we aren’t looking at approaches, like those at Changing Hands and Wellesley Booksmith, and opening our minds to that sort of marketing and publicity. It’s common sense, people!

There’s a darling new librarian here in Queens who told me that her manager said to her, “Our customers don’t care about the award winners.” What?!?! Needless to say, I got fired up. There is so much wrong with that statement. First off, maybe it’s not that they don’t care…perhaps they don’t know about the awards! You can’t make assumptions about that, Mr. Manager! Did they actually say they didn’t care?! Sheesh.

I suggested that this librarian make a temporary display – nearly every librarian has this space in their library – with a selection of past award winners. Make a sign advertising that these are award winners, and include a list of the newest winners. Prominently display the 2008 winners that you have in stock. If you’re missing some, then make a movie marquee “Coming Soon…” sign to entice them. Talk it up – Feathers has that gorgeous cover (and it's thin!), Hugo Cabret needs hardly any selling at all, use First the Egg in a storytime and tell your parents that it just won two major awards. Think creatively!

Stop being brought down by your managers (who rarely understand children’s literature, anyway) and read Allison’s post as proof-positive that people do listen to us and you can absolutely affect the circulation of a single book.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Laura. I'm just a library fan and not a librarian, but was talking about this sort of thing with one of my kids-librarian friends the other day. I was telling her her about a book of nonfiction, a most interesting book but one that I felt would linger on the shelves for lack of an audience. "Then you book-talk it," my friend said. "Tell people about it. That's what I do!"

That pro-active advice cheered me up enormously. I hope to post about the book soon.

Unknown said...

That's so great to hear, Susan - I'm always buoyed by the "can" librarians and try to rise above the "can'ts". I can't wait to hear about the book from you: after all, books are all about word-of-mouth!

I love libary fans! 8-)