Impressions from Carrie Herrmann’s presentation at Association for Rural and Small Libraries Annual Conference, Columbus, Ohio, September 26-29, 2007 by Jeanne Benedict for the Maine Library Community.
First, I want to say thank you to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Maine State Library for giving me the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) in Columbus, Ohio (September 26-28, 2007). It was not only a great learning experience but was also a wonderful opportunity to meet librarians from all over the United States.
One of the sessions that was the most interesting and practical for me was called “Merchandising @ your library.” It was presented by Carrie Herrmann, who is the Public Service Coordinator for Boone County Public Library in Union, Kentucky. She shared simple merchandising tips, ideas for displays, resources for themes, etc.
Capturing patrons’ interest with the senses
Getting people to check out books is very similar to getting people to buy something in a store. You need to capture their attention and focus their interest. A simple display can do that by eliminating the information overload that comes from looking at row after row of books. Displays should support the goals and mission statement of the library and appeal to as many of the 5 senses as possible. Carrie told of libraries that would pop popcorn, make coffee, bake cookies, etc. to appeal to patron’s sense of smell! The result is that patrons stay longer and borrow more. Looking at fashion magazines for the latest “in” colors was another great idea.
Displays should be located whenever possible in certain places. Near the circulation desk is ideal because patrons can browse as they wait to check out their books. Other great spots include the ends of stacks, areas of heavy foot traffic. If you have room in the stacks, it can also be eye-catching to occasionally display a book face out.
Know your audience
You also have to know your audience. Displays for men should be eye catching and have a masculine feel while women are more willing to browse but are less apt to examine items that are below the waist. Displays for older adults should not be on low shelves and should be in well-lit areas. Displays should have height which can be achieved with something as simple as boxes under a cloth, or with display cubes that can be purchased. One idea that Carrie shared was the use of clear display cubes that could contain a prop.
Props are useful in making an attractive display if they relate to the theme and compliment the titles. They should not clutter a display or upstage the titles. You don’t want the props to be so fascinating that no one looks at the books! Herrmann suggested using fellow staff, garage sales, dollar stores, eBay, etc. as places for finding props.
Signs are also important and Carrie shared some tips that have been proven through study. As a general rule, an 8 ½ by 11 sign should have a headline (40 font) and two lines of copy (18 font). The three best fonts are Courier New, Arial, and Times New Roman and a combination of upper and lower case works best. Comic Sans was also recommend by several in the group for use in signs for young adults. Signs should have no more than two key images. Some color combination dos included black or blue on white, white on black or blue, and red on yellow. Don’ts included red on green, blue on orange, yellow on aqua or white, and green on magenta. Signs should not be hand-written and should be consistent and neat.
Ideas for displays
Ideas for displays can come from many different places. Books recommended by Carrie included:
- Chase’s Calendar of Events, Why we Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill
- Merchandising Library Materials to Young Adults by Mary Anne Nichols.
- Chase’s Calendar of Events
- Bizarre American Holidays
- Health Observances
- Food Holidays
- National Health Observances
- What’s Happening This Day, This Week, This Month and includes an Earth Calendar
- Fiction site
Display need to work
The most important thing to remember about displays is that they need to work. If the books in a display don’t circulate, change the display. It’s also true that if the books in a display circulate so much that you can’t keep the display stocked, you may need to take it down. It’s important to have enough books to keep a display looking attractive so don’t plan a theme around something you don’t have many books for. Remember that you can also mix media in a display. For example, a display about Italy might include travel books, films, and fiction related to the region.
I’ve just touched on the highlights of Carrie Herrmann’s merchandising session. Her full power point presentation along with other great sessions from the conference may be available soon on the WebJunction/ARSL website. With all the holidays coming up, this is a great time of year to try out some merchandising @ your library. Have fun!!
Jeanne Benedict is the Library Director at Henry D. Moore Library, Steuben, Maine