Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pushing Books Successfully

At the program Establishing and Promoting Readers' Advisory in Small and Medium-Sized Libraries in New Orleans, Sharon Smith said her number one rule is "Never let a reader leave empty-handed." Liking the lofty idea, I tried to put it into practice in my shift at the reference desk last night.

It was one of those night when people asked for books that were out or at other libraries in our shared catalog. After writing the book titles and the client information on request slips, I asked matter-of-factly, "Since we did not have your book, can we find another for you? We wouldn't want you to go home empty-handed." It worked three out of the five times I tried it. One of declining readers told me she already had several books on a nearby table to check out. So, one person went home empty-handed, and even he said he had several books on his nightstand.

I was pleased. I think the statement works much better than the vaguer and weaker "Is there anything else we can do today?" When we have taken a reserve, we have not actually done anything immediate for the client, and this question might not really instill confidence. We have only given them a promise to do something. The new statement that I tried says exactly what I can do right now. Two of the clients replied "Now that you mention it, I have been thinking about reading (fill in the blank)." One client declined initially, walked away very briefly, and came back asking, "Do you have any books by (fill in the blank)?"

As a bonus, I had another reader recommend a book of international finance for library purchase last night. It reminded me of a book I reviewed three weeks ago. I said, "This reminds me of a book I think you might like." It did look good to him and he checked it out.

Four books went home with readers last night. Assertiveness works.


Anonymous said...

This is a very good tip. Thank you for sharing it. I find it very hard to be aggressive but the way you worded your phrase was very subtle, I thought. Sometimes I'm just plain dumbfounded that anyone could leave the library without checking out SOMETHING, so I have to get over that too.

Pam in Tucson said...

This is a great idea. I'm a retired information specialist who discovered your blog quite by accident. I've enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

I am another person finding your blog by accident. This is a wonderful idea, and it makes me sad to realize that I always use the computer in my university library. Usually I leave with something, but not everyone is me, and it seems like it would be a bummer if someone were to use the computer, find the library lacking, and leave.

Another point in favor of humans, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I've tried "Would a similar book on the topic help?" (for nonfiction) but I like your more "concerned" approach better.
I was on a roll last night asking people if they wanted to sign up for our adult summer reading program. At least one person didn't seem very interested in my spiel, but I later found out he signed up! Some gentle assertiveness does indeed work. --Great tips in this post.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rick - I'm the MOM of the GROOM in the parade in New Orleans. I'm so thrilled to see the photo-- my son emailed me the link. The Bride and Groom were lamenting that there weren't any photos of the parade, which was such fun.

Is there any chance that you have a way of communicating with other librarians that were in New Orleans and might have also taken photos? If they could email me their link, or the photos directly, we'd be grateful-

Thank you in advance-
Mary Skelton, St. Albans, VT