Library Borrows Bookstore Display Ideas

The Central Library in Des Moines borrows some ideas for displays from Barnes & Noble. 

The article mentions the coffee-book link.  Which is interesting to me, because back in the 80s, when I was designing my ideal bookstore, it included a cafe.  Books and coffee go together in my mind.

I’m still mulling over the idea of libraries taking ideas from retail.  A lot of the question boils down to what is a library?  What is the library’s goal?  It seems obvious at first, but then when you start talking to people, you start to realize that everyone who’s interested in libraries has a deeply personal, individual idea of what a library actually is.

The article includes this quote: “Libraries are no different than bookstores,” said Des Moines City Councilwoman Christine Hensley. “It’ll have the coffee shop, meeting rooms, study rooms.”  Libraries are very different from bookstores.  Bookstores don’t have meeting rooms and study rooms.  Browsing in bookstores is for paying customers only– or, at least, customers who look like they have the ability to pay.  The information is for paying customers only.

Another major difference is the availability of old, out of print, obscure works.  Tax laws and the realities of business force bookstores to keep only the newest, best-selling works.  There’s little there for the “long tail,” the niche readers.   

Sometimes I worry that we will lose sight of the idea that the library is for all.  I think libraries can use a few marketing tips, but we need to carefully consider the impact of what we do.  (And frankly, I would rather see us making design and marketing decisions from a solid knowledge of marketing, public relations, and the social effects of architectural/ interior design, rather than from the knowledge of “It works for Barnes & Noble.”  I hope we understand WHY we are doing things.)