November 16, 2017

Building a Display-Driven Strategy | Brand Insider

This is the first installment of a new column on visual merchandising and display, marketing, and branding for libraries.

Apr1webBrand2Finding great books is getting even harder now as more and more books are published every year. Nearly a million new books flooded the market last year alone—about half of them self-published. LJ’s Patron Profiles data shows that libraries can be a great source for book discovery—32 percent of patrons find books to read or borrow from libraries. But there are still many more readers to reach. Readers’ advisory and online discovery both continue to play big roles in connecting readers to new titles, authors, and even genres they might not have sought out on their own. In the physical space, there is much more that can be done by reinventing how libraries approach the art of the display.

Everyone’s job

Adopting a display-driven branch environment is important, according to Stacie Ledden, director of innovation and brand strategy for the Anythink Libraries in Adams County, CO. “The mind-set has to be that it’s everyone’s job to maintain the displays and make the space look great,” she says.

While such broad participation has advantages for keeping displays looking fresh, the approach comes with more work. “Knowledge transfer is difficult,” Ledden acknowledges. “As new staff come on, we have to familiarize them with the guidelines. We run merchandising training every year.” (Anythink shares its merchandising guidelines online.)

Though it takes extra effort, rewards can be enormous. When Anythink implemented a display-driven rebranding in 2009, it nearly doubled its circulation, from just under 700,000 in 2008 to more than 1.3 million in 2012. Similarly, when Tulsa shifted from its Central Library to the temporary Librarium, circulation fell by almost 39 percent. But since the collection itself fell a whopping 95 percent, that represents a triumph, perhaps attributable to the Librarium’s displays. Because display initiatives are seldom implemented without weeding, renovation, or other changes, it can be hard to isolate their impact, but there is little doubt it makes a difference.

GO DEEP Clustering copies from multiple branches allows a display that circulation doesn’t destroy, such as this one at Anythink. Photo courtesy of Anythink Libraries

GO DEEP Clustering copies from multiple branches allows a display that circulation doesn’t destroy, such as this one at Anythink. Photo courtesy of Anythink Libraries

Designing displays that last

Even for trained staff, the practical problems of merchandising can be considerable, especially because libraries, more often than bookstores, construct displays from books of which each branch only has one or two physical copies. What happens when a carefully constructed display disappears in hours because the books are all loaned out? To prevent having to create new displays on a daily basis, one secret to an effective merchandising strategy is to build durable displays that can be maintained and rotated at planned intervals. Here are a few tricks to help you do that:

  1. Cluster Books: To build durable displays, consider gathering all the copies of a title throughout your library or cooperative system into a single branch.
  2. No Holds: To keep the display fresher, eliminate holds. Make sure that when a display book comes back, it goes directly onto the display.
  3. Shorter Lends: Another strategy for keeping displays around longer is to reduce the lending period. Consider a one-week lend for a thriller or romance novel if your checkout system will accommodate it.
  4. Put Displays Up Front: A great display strategy will cover your whole branch, but if you have to start somewhere, make it near the entrance.
  5. Have a Plan: At Anythink the list of displays (marketers call it a plan-o-gram) is kept on a whiteboard in the staff area. The plan can tell you what to do if a title is depleted before the display is set to rotate. Is there another title by the author or another author that can substitute? If so, it should be noted and set aside.
  6. Make a Small Investment: While tables and shelving might seem like the most important display tools, small items like cubes, sign-holders, easels, and bookends make constructing sustainable displays dramatically easier.
  7. Evaluate the Space: Where are high-traffic areas? What are the opportunities? Are there displays in your meeting space targeted to the kinds of events you host? Are there parenting displays in your children’s room? Career advice near your workforce redevelopment center? Focus displays on ensuring that patrons who visit the library for other reasons still have the opportunity to find a title that connects to their goals.
  8. Focus on Emotional Connection: Patrons remember things that surprise them.

David Vinjamuri, President of ThirdWay Brand Trainers and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Marketing at New York University, facilitates LJ’s Lead the Change program Transform Your Stacks To Drive Circulation

This article was published in Library Journal's April 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

David Vinjamuri About David Vinjamuri

David Vinjamuri, President of ThirdWay Brand Trainers and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Marketing at New York University, facilitates LJ’s Lead the Change program Transform Your Stacks To Drive Circulation

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What is Design Thinking?
From space planning, redesigning services and staffing, to developing more user-centric approaches, design thinking can help you problem-solve through ingenuity and creativity, and better understand and serve your patrons. Our introductory online workshop, Demystifying Design Thinking is designed for library professionals who want to take a fresh approach to tackling their library’s challenges through human-centered design.

Comments

  1. I am a high school librarian and the books that I put on display move much faster than the books on the shelf. With short time to browse and the need for instant gratification- my kids can see a display that interests them and they trust that any book on display will be amazing!
    Thank you for this article!

  2. I’m all for well designed and implemented displays and believe they have significant impact on circulation but attributing Anythink’s almost doubling of circulation simply to displays is misleading at best. They were opening up multiple new locations in underserved areas and renovating all other existing locations. The work was tremendous and much more than merchandising.

  3. I am a new director of a public library and would love to learn more about this concept. Can you suggest a contact person who already works with publishers and libraries in this way? Thanks!