10 March 2009
GUEST ARTICLE--THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES
Think For The Customer .....The Future of Libraries
by John Stanley, John Stanley Associates, Kalamunda, Western Australia,
Libraries are no different to any other business as they face the challenges of 2009 and beyond. What worked in 2008 may not work in a changed market place. The consumer has changed their shopping habits and their buying habit, probably for good. This has real impact on the role of the library in the community.
In more difficult times the consumer relooks at the way they spend their money. As a result, small luxury items sales increase. Small indulgencies increase in popularity during tough economic times. Businesses that believe they do not have small indulgency items for sale often succumb to playing the sales game to generate sales on the High (Main) Street. The result is the consumer is being trained to accept the 70 percent off sales as a norm.
But, how does this affect Libraries?
In more difficult economic times, libraries come into their own again. People who have not walked into a library for many years are rediscovering, or discovering, libraries for the first time. The challenge is, are you marketing your library to attract the consumers who at times may find a library uncomfortable and forbidding?
I was recently intrigued to see a banner [in the photo above] over Balham Library in London ,UK promoting free reading in the library. This was a direct marketing campaign aimed at promoting the benefits of the library in the community when the consumer was thinking about how they could save money. This was especially relevant, as the local bookshop was offering an incentive for their consumers to get a discount if they returned the bookshop books back to the bookshop once their customers had read them.
Reading is recognised as a small indulgent luxury by more people during tough economic times. This is a marketing opportunity that can be used by the library service to increase patronage. The key is to observe how consumers think and adapt your library service to the new thinking process and at the same time, you need to make your library more consumer friendly to these new patrons.
By nature, a librarian, like many other industry experts, tends to think about the product first and then secondly think about how the consumer will react to their product. A classic example of this is laying a library out using the Dewey System; the Dewey System alone can deter many people from going into a library. The entrepreneurial thinker will think differently; they will put themselves in the customer’s shoes first and then arrange the product and signage system to help the consumer.
However, with new consumers looking for access to a wide range of reading material, they may choose to venture into libraries. That creates an opportunity for librarians to re-think the presentation of their “products” and offer new ideas on “merchandising.” Try the new ideas and then test them to see if they work and whether they are worth adopting in the library.
Libraries, in my view, will have a new role in the community over the next few years and will become a lot more relevant than they may have been perceived to be in recent past years. Libraries today have an opportunity to attract new consumers, and that means it is also a time to experiment with new ways of attracting new consumers. It is time to brainstorm with the team how you can present library products and services in a way that could attract more consumers to your library. The library industry is entering a new and exciting era and now is the time to grasp those opportunities and run with them.
John Stanley is a world-reknown library and retail consultant, speaker and author. John helps libraries: lay the library out with the consumer in mind to increase lend rate, create displays to maximise lend rate potential, and market their services to increase patron count.