Libraries learn from bookstores

INFOcus is the e-newsletter publication of the Librarian’s Yellow Pages. Today’s issue contains a great textbook on marketing, displays, and signage. It reminds me of my first days working in a library (where I had accidentally landed before I became a card-carrying MLS Librarian). My assignment was to build displays around Chase’s Calendar of Events. For instance, who would have ever thought (without Chase’s) that today is “Belly Laugh Day.” Anyway, it sure made me mad when I worked all afternoon to pull out all the little-circulated books on a particular topic to find the display bunker emptied out following the 5:00 after-work rush. I quickly learned the wisdom of showcasing our wares.

What libraries can learn from bookstores: Applying bookstore design to public libraries gives a whole lot of ideas – new as well as some I’ve forgotten. The article includes an interview with a former supervisor of a Barnes and Noble children’s section. Some great ideas:

  • Everyone is cross-trained. Workers in the cafe area can provide direction to customers.
  • Lists of bestsellers posted in strategic places.
  • Everyone is expected to know the top ten bestsellers and where they are.
  • Staff receive sheets on release dates and expected arrival dates.
  • Everyone works the checkout.
  • Staff spend days in assigned areas shelving new books.
  • Customers are connected with and help is offered.
  • Customers smell coffee & pastries.
  • Music favors targeted customers (B&N targets baby boomers, plays classical music; Borders targets Gen X, plays jazzier music).
  • Barnes & Noble stores have brighter lighting than other stores. Experts say brighter light suggests lower prices.
  • Power aisles lead customers to all parts of store. Displays line the power aisles.
  • Reduce information overload. Shelve by genre, use shorter shelves.
  • Booklists and recommendations

Lots more on signage and displays. Good resource.

Teaching game about tags

A great idea for teaching and learning about tagging from Joyce Valenza’s NeverEndingSearchBlog. The game is called Fastr, developed by Scott Reynen of The game generates a group of ten Flickr images and you guess the common tag. As Joyce warns, probably not real appropriate for younger children, given what may pop up in Flickr, although when I tried it I didn’t see anything inappropriate (I only guessed about half).


I found this morning, thanks to Chris Sherman at Search Engine Land. Chris says the search engine is “. . . really a select directory of 5,000 sites most popular among users 45 and older, simplifies search results by only presenting you four links and specially created annotations, along with ads served by partner”

A linked article from CNN Money says the site is aimed at Baby Boomers and Seniors who get cRANKy from getting lost in too many search results. Building on the word “rank” in the middle of the word, the search site attempts to bring more relevant results through only using those sites most popular with seniors.

I predict early demise.

Incidentally, I checked it out — the entry page lists the top 10 searches. When I checked it, the #1 listing was “sex” followed by “brain builders” and rounding out the top ten with “arthritis.”

Classics, or just old?

Lots of interest today in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial by John Miller, Checked Out, about libraries throwing out books not checked out in the past two years, especially classic literature. One of our library media specialists forwarded it via E-mail lists this morning and my colleague MB wrote about it on Impromptu Librarian.

While I agree with everything said about the role of libraries in the preservation of great thoughts, I am also mindful of the condition of many of these sacred cows on library shelves. Many are as old as their copyright date. Personally, I cannot get past the revulsion I feel in even touching the yellowed, musty smelling things. While some libraries have made a concerted effort to periodically replace the classics, more do not allocate any of their limited budgets to replace a book which statistically doesn’t get read anyway. And, if one truly wants to read one of the classics, they can go to an online or mall bookstore and buy something from the Barnes and Noble Classics Series, many available for less than $5.00 with a member discount.

Additionally, many of the classics are now in the public domain and can be acquired through one of the online repositories like Project Gutenberg, which incidentally also has audio books.

Interesting (and scary) — read the comments to the Miller editorial on For example:

Shut the Doors
Roger Hutchinson – Silver Spring, Md.
Maybe libraries should be subjected to the same scrutiny as its books. If less than 25% of the voters use a library in two years, close the library.

Top 25 careers

U.S. News published its top 25 picks for professions that “will be in growing demand as baby boomers age, the Internet becomes ubiquitous, and Americans seek richer, simpler lives” — and it looks like librarianship is one of those top 25 careers. While the the median salary ($49,708) listed is #22 on the list, the academic requirements place librarianship in the top 50% of the careers. 6 require masters, 7 require doctorates, the other 12 fields can be entered with a bachelors degree. U.S. News grades the quality of life for a librarian as an A, attainability as a B, and prestige and job market outlook as C.

The executive summary frees librarians from the “mousy bookworm” persona to be “high tech information sleuths” and proclaims it an “underrated career.” (I knew that.) According to the article: “librarians’ work hours are reasonable, and the work environment, needless to say, is placid.” (Hmmm, not so sure about that one.)

James Billington, the 13th Librarian of Congress is the featured librarian in the “Expert Opinion” section of the feature. His response to whether librarians are becoming obsolete is that the explosion of information is elevating librarians to be “the intermediaries who will help connect people to the information they need.” His assessment of the job fulfillment is right on — “Someone is paying you–usually not adequately–for a life of continuous learning and the satisfaction of sharing it with other people.”

Incidentally, the U.S. News ranking of top schools for library and information science lists my alma mater, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champagne as #1. UIUC has been a top-ranked school for a number of years — pretty impressive.

Lessons from Kofi Annan

From the Washington Post comes this message from Kofi Annan, who will leave his post as secretary general of the United Nations on December 31st. The article is based on an address he gave yesterday at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library in Independence, Mo. He says “All my life since has been a learning experience. Now I want to pass on five lessons I have learned during 10 years as secretary general of the United Nations that I believe the community of nations needs to learn as it confronts the challenges of the 21st century.” The entire article is appropriate reading for this reflective season.

  1. In today’s world we are all responsible for each other’s security.
  2. We are also responsible for each other’s welfare.
  3. Both security and prosperity depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law.
  4. Governments must be accountable for their actions, in the international as well as the domestic arena.
  5. Multilateral institutions through which states hold each other to account must be organized in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong.

. . . and in the same article he also says that nearly 50 years ago when he arrived in Minnesota as a student fresh from Africa he learned that “there is nothing wimpish about wearing earmuffs when it is 15 degrees below zero.”

Carambas, it’s good!

It’s an occupational hazard, or maybe just a wierd sort of hobby. Whenever I’m in any business, I look for customer service, especially as it parallels that in libraries. Tonight I was at my favorite Mexican restaurant, and saw a textbook illustrated right before my eyes!

  • When we walked in the place was full . . . people were enjoying themselves, kids were noticeably welcomed.
  • The staff, and especially the owner, were smiling and greeting everyone.
  • Service was prompt, the food arrived with a smile.
  • The product was attractive and fantastic as always.
  • Several times someone spoke to us, finding out if we needed anything.
  • We must have come right after a rush — suddenly a bunch of people left and there was a lull.
  • The staff, led by the owner, grabbed rags and sweepers and bustled around, tidying up and putting things in order.
  • The owner made a point to come over, sat down at an ajoining table, and chatted with us.
  • We complimented him on his growing business.
  • He said he’s had a number of invitations to move it elsewhere. But he likes the clientele and service he can provide right there, where his customers are, in the homey neighborhood that’s not known as a prime location or one of the better places in town.

We left, promising to return soon, as we always do. We got in our car which was parked in front of another food place on the strip mall. There was nobody in it, and the workers were lounging in the booths looking bored. Not too hard to figure out why the restaurant we had visited was getting all the business.