Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model

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How can libraries make a difference in their communities when customers choose to hang out in the spacious, well-stocked new bookstore instead? With the goal of helping libraries market their services using low-cost or no-cost techniques, Woodward shares practical lessons for any library's revitalization inspired by the success of mega bookstores.

Bookstores have succeeded by focusing on the customer, and libraries need to take a page from this playbook. While keeping one eye on their mission—to broaden library use and increase relevance while serving community needs—libraries can improve customer service, looks, and functionality in ways that enhance its community mission. Use Creating the Customer-Driven Library to:

  • Offer accessible, customer-friendly signs, catalogs, and interior spaces
  • Identify the unique needs of your library's community—then meet those needs
  • Create a step-by-step, customized promotion plan that communicates with your market
  • Find cost-effective ways to connect-—from user-friendly web sites to promo brochures
  • Show customers what the library has to offer and entice them to give it a try

Libraries remain vitally important to the organizations and communities they serve. Using these outreach and marketing strategies, Woodward shows libraries how to "Become better than a bookstore," even without a hefty budget.

Focusing on Success
Looking Ahead
Let's Hear It for Libraries
All Libraries Can Learn
The Library's Mission Comes First
1 Why Bookstores Are So Appealing
Location, Location, Location
The Welcoming Bookstore
Observing Customer Service
Layout and Signage
The New Bookstore Model
Food, Drink, and Entertainment
Leaving the Bookstore

2 Comparing Libraries and Bookstores
The Library's Location
The Library Exterior
Entering the Library
Visiting the Stacks
The Joyful Children's Library
Meeting Customer Needs
Behind the Scenes
Taking Our Leave

3 Focusing on the Bottom Line
The Bookstore's Single Objective
In Search of a Bottom Line for the Library
The Diversity of Library Services
The Value of Library Statistics
Equating the Bottom Line with Customer Satisfaction
Measuring the Library's Success
Collecting Only Useful Information

4 Valuing Customer Service
Checkout Desk versus Circulation Desk
Overdue Fines
Comparing Small and Large Libraries
The Stressed-Out Research Library
The Information Desk
Vast, Empty Stacks
Reference Assistance
Comparing Customer Satisfaction
The Responsive Public Service Staff
The Library's Not-So-Secret Weapon

5 Identifying Customer Needs
Changing Neighborhoods, Changing Lifestyles
Balancing Staff and Customer Needs
Does the Librarian Really Know Best?
Listening to Our Customers
Anticipating Busy Times
Fine-Tuning the Library Schedule
Full Service versus Expanded Hours
The Responsive Library
The Pulse of the Community
Learning about the Community
Reaching Younger Customers
Reaching Other Groups

6 When the System Crashes: Using Technology to Enhance
Not Defeat the Library
The Beleaguered Customer
When the Bookstore's System Crashes
Dependence on Technology
Hiring Technical Staff
Managing Technical Staff
Planning for Continuity
Uniting Technical and Traditional Staff

7 One Library, One Goal: Establishing Clear Priorities
Conflicting Library Goals
Integrating Library Priorities
Our Customer-Unfriendly Classifications
Customers Come before Theory
Automation and the MARC Record
Amazon's Catalog
Technology Requires Fundamental Changes
Customer Service and the Library Staff
Learning from Small Libraries
The Research Library's Unique Challenge
Simulating Real-World Conditions
Training Student Staff

8 What's All This about Ambience?
Bookstore Decor
Responding to Customers' Sensory Needs
Increasing Public Service Presence
Spaces Where Customers Feel at Ease
The Importance of Color in Libraries
The Psychology of Color
Color Choice Can Be Difficult
Attacking Library Clutter
Cleanliness May Indeed Be Next to Godliness
Grime As the Customer Sees It
Working with a Custodial Staff

9 The Art of Display
Arrangement of Materials
Making Materials More Appealing
Color Relationships
Getting Started
The Display Designer's Toolbox
Construction Materials
Other Materials
Display Cases
Display Cases Require Commitment
Getting Ideas

10 Finding Their Way: The Importance of Signage
The Library's Signage
Basics of Good Signage
Comparing Bookstore and Library Signs
The Right Signs in the Right Location
The Signage System
Responding to Customer Needs
Choosing the Right Words
Good Signage Needn't Be Expensive
Word Processing and Desktop Publishing Programs
Touring the Library as a Customer
A Sign System Is a Work in Process

11 Marketing Our Wares
Distinguishing between Kinds of Support
Learning to Use the Tools of Marketing
Discovering Hidden Constituencies
Developing a Marketing Plan
Begin with Your Mission Statement
Identify Community Needs
Identify Obstacles to Achieving Goals
Distinguish between Your Primary and Secondary Markets
Narrow and Focus the Goal
Identify the Competition
Establish a Marketing Budget
Establish a Time Line
Leverage the Impact of the Marketing Plan
Schedule the Production of Promotional Materials

12 Creating Promotional Materials
The Growth of Desktop Publishing
Isn't It a Lot of Work?
Competing for Your Customers' Attention
The Basics of Production
Explore Both In-House and Outsourced Options
Getting Started
Getting into Print
Make the Right Printing Choice
Get the Most Effective Publication for the Lowest Price
Make It Perfect before Printing
Protect Precious Files
The Joy of Scanning
Investigate Desktop Publishing Programs
Creating a Promotional Blitz

13 Serving the Library's E-patrons
A World of Information Providers
Creating the Library Website
Building the Site
Website Design Principles
Make Routine Maintenance a Priority
Applying Library Skills to Cyberspace
Using the Website to Achieve Library Goals
Attracting Customers
Meeting Customers' Cyber Needs
Learning from the Yahoo! Model
The Website as a Group Effort
Creating Web Pages for a Larger Site
Selecting Hardware and Software
Basic Hardware
Digital Cameras
Graphics Tablets
Finding a Host

14 Generating Publicity for the Library
Reaching New Customers
Attracting Financial Support
Creating a Publicity Machine
Getting into Print and on the Air
Crafting the Press Release
The Library as the Media Sees It
Sending Out Digital Photos
The Library Newspaper Column
Play by Their Rules
Content Dos and Don'ts
Becoming a Public Personality
Preparing for a Speaking Engagement
Becoming a Speech Writer
Forget the Orations of the Past
Coping with Controversy
Let Your Product Speak for Itself

15 Food and Drink in the Library
Clarifying Our Identity
The Library Is a Place
Learning from Bookstores
A Café May Be a Cooperative Endeavor
Legal Issues
Complexity of Operation
Sending Out an RFP
Evaluating Proposals

16 Finding the Time and the Money
Focus on Resources, Not Money
Establishing Priorities
The Public's View of the Library
Accentuating the Positive
First Things First
Achieving Visible Results
Dealing with Crisis
Reducing Hours of Operation
Paving the Way for Recovery
Creating an Effective Volunteer Staff
Expanding the Role of Library Volunteers
Responding to Change
Customer Service Training
Reviving a Library on a Zero Budget

Changing Library Needs
Facing the Uncertain Future
Reexamining the Bookstore Model
Building on Our Strengths, Confronting Our Weaknesses


Jeannette Woodward

Jeannette Woodward is a principal of Wind River Library and Nonprofit Consulting. After a career in academic library administration, she began a second career in public libraries, serving as director of the Fremont County Library System in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. Woodward is the author of several books, including What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy (2007), Nonprofit Essentials: Managing Technology (2006), Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model (2005), and Countdown to a New Library: Managing the Building Project (2000). She holds a master's degree in library and information science from Rutgers University, with doctoral study at the University of Texas at Austin.