In changing times, libraries test new survival strategies

An Anonymous Patron tells us about this article on libraries adopting 'business' strategies, from Boston.com:
"Patricia Lambert, who favors power suits and keeps a copy of "Think Like a Manager" near her desk, took over as library director about two months ago.

In one of her first business decisions, she quietly reversed a longtime rule at the library. "I took down the sign that says, 'No food or drink,' " she said. "No one has said anything."

"We need to be like Barnes & Noble. That's really whom we should be looking at as a concept," she said.

"You can eat and drink in Barnes & Noble. You should be able to do that at the library.""

Comments

If we want to be like Barnes & Nobles maybe we should sell books and coffee. Profits could be used to support the lending part of the collection.

Coffee and food split and smeared all overlibrary books will be yummy for vermin,bugs, mold, etc. While B&N probably canafford to throw a ruined book in a dumpster,libraries will just keep puttin that bookback on the shelf, and attract new patronswith tails.BTW...does B&N allow it's customers to readthe books, coffee and bagel in hand...BEFOREthey buy them? I doubt it.

My local one does -- you can carry whatever you want into the cafe. It's fabulous. On the other hand, if people did it a lot, I imagine the cost of spillage etc. would become prohibitive.

There are many degrees of implementation one could try -- for example, some academic libraries permit only closed-top spillproof mugs. Perhaps the library could sell such a thing, as well. Or perhaps it could make patrons check out the book, becoming responsible for it, before letting them take it into the cafe area. It might be worth experimenting.

Now, I love my local Barnes and Noble. But I'm getting very tired of hearing people say that libraries should be just like it. If we become just like a coffee shop/bookstore, there will be nothing to set us apart in peoples' minds. "Hey, they're just like B&N, except with grubbier books!" That won't motivate them to use the library or to ever see librarians as being any different from the apathetic, ignorant teenagers who make up most of the staff at my local bookstore.

What we should do instead is make it more clear what we do BETTER than Barnes and Noble. If you walk in there looking for a bestseller, you're in luck. However, if you are looking for a hard-to-find piece of information, or a very specific type of book instead of a general one on a broad topic, all you're likely to get at Barnes and Noble is a blank stare from a staff member annoyed at being asked this question. Librarians, however, are fully capable (and, in my experience, generally enthusiastic) about getting interesting, obscure questions about specifc things. That's what we should hype: make ourselves known as finders of facts, not as warehouses for books.

The trick is getting people in the door. How do we convince people that we have better services that B&N if we don't have traffic?

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