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Libraries Starting to Emerge as Bookstores

29 December 2012

From Good EReader:

With bookstores gradually on the way out in the digital age, libraries are increasingly finding themselves in a new role, that of bookstores themselves. More and more libraries are changing their renovations plans to limit adding more shelf space to add more titles to their already existing collection but are also earmarking a separate section that will be dedicated to shave off some of their collection to those eager to buy them at a discounted price, the proceeds of which will be used for other developmental activities. In fact, libraries are into a sort of makeover phase and are re-inventing themselves as stores with the members being seen as customers.

As Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library puts it, “A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want.”

. . . .

Libraries often have to stock multiple copies of best sellers when they are in demand to be able to satisfy more number of patrons though the multiple copies become redundant once they go out of favor in a year or two. These along with the usual practice of libraries to ‘weed’ out some of their stocks that they believe they can do without also earns them resources that has become vital in the age of depressed economic situation.

Link to the rest at Good EReader


13 Comments to “Libraries Starting to Emerge as Bookstores”

  1. “A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want.”

    Yes, but…you can’t find C.S. Lewis in my local library because he’s been “weeded out”. Stookie Stackhouse (whatever the name is), they have in abundance.

    At least part of a library’s function is as resource, a protector of old material one would be hard-pressed to find on Amazon.

    What am I talking about? Just go to Abebooks or Google Books for the old stuff. Forget the libraries entirely, they’re flailing and failing to serve the public. I haven’t bothered to go to my local library in years.

  2. I work at a Public Library, downtown in the 4th largest city in the US, and I want to throw in here a couple of points.

    If you judge a library solely on the availability of books you want (and right now, damnit!) every library will eventually fail. Libraries offer so much more than just printed material, now (though it is still our favorite). At my location, alone, we offer free computer access (and manage tons of people each day who seek to use that access that middle class people take for granted), as well as daily free technology courses (so many people are under-trained and therefore nearly unemployable). We offer free access to many databases that you would have to pay hundreds of dollars for each month. We offer job-search assistance through the workforce commission and through daily open job labs, where we help the unemployed and under-employed build resumes, write cover letters, and seek out meaningful employment. We have super areas for children and for youth, stocked full of books, movies and software that appeals to those groups (and with extra security). In short, we are a hub for the downtown community. And THEN we constantly seek out and stock and preserve books from all time periods….

    I am not picking on Barbara, though responding to her disgust and accusation about “failing.” We have had to realign our thought paradigm regarding what we are here for, a process which has taken time and has driven many “traditional” librarians into retirement. We are simply not *just* providers of books and printed materials. For people who don’t have the extra money to spend on ABE Books or Google, or even on a computer or the internet service to get to those sites, we are an indispensable resource. We are here SOLELY to serve the public; it’s just that the public does not always look just like Barbara, and its needs are so much more diverse than even stocking C.S. Lewis books could satisfy.

    Lastly, we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and add services. We are responsive to our patrons! So, if Barbara would COME to the library and see what we have to offer, she might be pleasantly surprised; most libraries have ways for patrons who care to request books and materials, and we welcome the feedback.

    Finally, just because you have not used the library in years does not mean it is not valuable to your community!

    [end of rant]

    • You’re ranting at me? Someone who has given free seminars at the library? Someone who has donated hundreds, perhaps even over a thousand books to the library?

      Since you do not know me at all, you have no idea what I know about my local library and interlibrary loan. You have no idea if I’m correct in my assessment of my library.

      But rant on, David D. And include in your next rant the part about letting computer-less patrons view porn with children nearby.

      • I apologize for offending you, Barbara–I was not attacking you, but merely defending an institution that is often overlooked by people who have no need to use it. You stated, yourself, that you haven’t set foot in your local library in years, yet you complain that it is “flailing and failing.” Since you have given free seminars, you are obviously aware of the variety of purposes that a library has become *for* other than print books, alone (even if the classes you gave were years ago).

        I don’t know you, nor do I know the practices of your local libraries regarding computer access. Here, we police our computer stations to keep patrons from accessing pornography, and employ a content filter that does a good job restricting access to adult sites. As I mentioned, we have a large child-centered suite, far from the computer access areas, just for our kids, and another just for teens. As I mentioned before, the population is diverse and people use the library for so many different things.

    • I’m glad libraries are finding more and more creative ways to serve the public. Where I live they furnish not only books to borrow but a place to do homework, get Internet access, and read in comfort, and they have an increasingly good selection of digital books to borrow from my living room. They host classes and meetups and author talks and readings. They’re a haven for parents and children on rainy afternoons, and a clearing-house of community information, especially for people without computers and Internet.

      Back when I accumulated paper books, I think I must have put the little ABEBooks kids through college. Then I bought digital like there was no tomorrow. Then I lost my job. And what ho!–there’s the trusty library, a short walk across the park, filled with knowledgeable, hardworking people known as librarians. 🙂

  3. Our local library is located in an old, donated home. They don’t have much space, and the small vestibule has always been lined with “weeded out” or donated books they don’t need for sale.

  4. I grabbed Margaret Storey’s Melinda-the-witch books when my local library put them in their sale rack. And thank goodness, because nowadays you can’t buy a copy for less than fifty dollars and my siblings all mourn – I got ’em, and they don’t.

    It’s great that somebody’s finally pointing out in public that many readers find what they like in the library and then go out and buy it.

  5. Well, that’s not what they’re actually pointing out. But it’s also great that when I was between jobs and didn’t want to spend money, I could grab an armload of books off a library sales rack and pay whatever I felt appropriate.

  6. I like this very much.

    I like the idea of libraries also selling books. Libraries have a more accessible feeling to them then many bookstores do. I think it’s a really good match.

    As for libraries not providing what they could – blame the taxpayers for not supporting them. I think libraries often do amazing jobs considering the limited funds available to them.

    I shudder at a society that did not have libraries – where books were available only to those who could afford them. That would be terrible. We need libraies.

  7. David D, I barely have words to tell you my feelings about libraries, or to thank you for all that you do as a true community resource and treasure. In the way back long ago, my dream was to work in a library–I could imagine no greater calling. Alas, it didn’t come true for me, but I have a sis with a masters in Library Science, who did that job for many years. She was my heroine.

    Part of her job for a time was to work on the book mobile, taking books out into places where there was no library, and to people who couldn’t easily access libraries, like nursing homes, shut ins, hospitals, etc. (this was long before digital). She also took books to juvenile detention centers on the book mobile. Imagine a tiny young woman in her 20s trying to explain to a bunch of juvenile deliquent boys why books might be important. So she offered up a book on building paper airplanes (really) and got all of them to build one and race them, the winner being given the book as a prize! She was invited back many times.

    Libraries have been my haven more times than I can count, a place of discovery, solace when I was sad, and quite literally a place to hide out when the brutal ex was in a drunken rage (he would never think to look for me there, nor make it past the wonderful guardians at the front desk).

    And I love that libraries raise funds by selling off their books. I have one laying at my elbow right this minute, a Christmas pressent (I told you I got used books for Christmas) that says “Atlanta Fulton Public Library” on the front sticker, and still has one of those wonderful library card envelopes stuck to the back page! The library got some needed funds, and I got a hardcover book I’d been wanting. Win-win.

    And while they may not have every single book whenever I want it (many libraries don’t even bother cataloguing paperback romances, so it can be a bit of a hunt) they nearly always have something else new that I’d like. The BEST part is the librarians, who are far superior to any Amazon review, or to the “folks who bought this bought that” recommendations. If you get to know a librarian, they will always have suitable suggestions and recommendations for you.

    • I had entirely forgotten the Bookmobile, a wonderful part of both my childhood and those adult years when I lived far, far from any branch of the library, but could still spend a happy hour browsing and borrowing and getting acquainted with other book lovers.

  8. Selling off your outdated or surplus lending stock does not make you into a bookstore. If it did, I would have been running a bookstore every time I got rid of some of my own collection, and nearly every garage sale I have ever been to would have been a bookstore, too.

  9. It’s complicated. It appears many libraries often are trying to appeal to a certain demographic. When I see the library book sales of so so many and such outstanding old books, I mourn, for our time is gone, what mattered to us that we hope to teach those younger is not even available any longer at our own library. {Ethnographic surveys for instance, WPA collections for instance]. We’re offered plenty of video games, humor about hate and who is the latest dork group, pop culture and a swath of good, bad and indifferent novels and movies. I never thought I would see the day that one couldnt find a well regarded book at the library if/or one couldnt find it at the bookstore. The reply has gone from ‘we sold those based on low numbers of check-outs’ to ‘that must be a really old book, I’d have to look that up. Nope we havent had that since [name year].’ [Picasso’s drawings abram’s 1960-something]’

    So then we go to ABE books, Ebay, Alibris, antiquarian booksellers, and it may surely be there, and at a huge price, and sure enough, it’s an ‘ex-library’ book ‘with some stickers’.

    I revered libraries as a child, have given them huge amounts of time pro bono as an author, declaimed the librarians I know who, like many who are teachers of others kinds… but ho stand out from the pack of mediocres. We in our family did not leave the library. But the library has left us. I dont want to see some guy on the computer perusing porn under the guise of first amendment ‘freedom to read’ when I’m with my grandchildren. I dont want to see someone’s private prurient interests if I’m alone. I’ve had a computer since 1985, and know my stuff, but the card catalogs were made for discovery… who knew what one would find fascinating by stumbling across it whilst looking for something else. That is the heart of creative life. But nada. Gone.

    Electronic catalog sucks in that regard. I could go on. I’m going to stop here. Libraries like bookstores are in a hard position, and I NEVER lay it at the feet of the librarians. But public admin and public policy as a means of livelihood, in my .02, censor and discriminate in terms of ‘collections availible’ according to line item budgets given by the municipality, and whichever pop charts they follow. It’s not a heart decision unfortunately. It’s a fiscal one.

    I dig that the library in/near Chicago, as mentioned above helps people with resumes and computer skills so they can get jobs. I’d like to know how that’s going, as in evidence based outcomes: how many jobs have people who entered and completed that program pulled down and for how long and in what industry? Maybe the libraries can pick up for all the vocational schools across the country that were also closed for ‘fiscal’ reasons.

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