Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Does This Display Make Me Look Fat? The Truth about Merchandising

"Merchandising" is such a funny looking word. It has the word "hand" in the middle and "sing" at the end. "Reach" and "search" can be formed with its letters. If only it had a "t" I could also rearrange the letters to form "retch." I am rather tired of hearing about marketing and merchandising. I just want to select and promote books, which is really merchandising and marketing, of course, but I am so tired of talking about it. So you would not think I would attend Does This Display Make Me Look Fat? The Truth About Merchandising. But I did and it was really good. I got several useful ideas.

Kathy Dempsey whose website is Libraries Are Essential and wrote the book The Accidental Library Marketer is a cheerful and understanding guide to the world of library promotion. And I liked how she started her tour of the library outside the building. Her point is that the outside suggests what's inside. The outside needs to be esthetically pleasing and also carry specific messages. Having attractive signs that post often changing messages can lure some curious nonusers inside to at least see what the library is about.

The entry way should be clear of clutter which might discourage the reluctant to continue. Most people pass through the entry way quickly. It is a better spot for branding than for the posting of content.

Once inside the building, people look for clear paths to departments and services. Space arrangement is more important than signs - though signs are also important.

Wherever bulletin boards are (hopefully not in the entryway), they should be orderly and well-tended.

Dempsey showed examples of many displays on tables and on wall shelving through libraries. She encouraged the use of cloths and rugs on tables, as well as well chosen props on any display. She also liked having books face out on end caps and library walls. For ideas she recommended looking at Trading Spaces: Reinventing the Library Environment on the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative website.

Dempsey also addressed a question our library has where to get royalty free images for our publications, website, and social media. On the Resources page of her website is a lengthy section about stock photos.

Here are some assorted tips:

  • Laminating signs makes them harder to read for anyone with vision problems.
  • Place signs near display books letting people know that they may be taken.
  • Bundles of children's books on related topics are popular with time-stressed parents.
  • Cardboard cutouts of library staff heads are a nice touch on staff recommends shelves.
The last idea that I really liked was turning ugly pillars into attractive branding. My library has two pillars screaming for a make-over in our community meeting room.

Despite my reluctance, I spent an hour well.

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