Zones in Your Library

By Fiona Emberton and John Stanley This article discusses the various zones you can create in your library, paying attention to the particular needs of differing demographic client groups. It outlines how retailers deal with this and suggests techniques libraries can adopt. Do you ever feel really uncomfortable in a certain music or clothes shop and slink out when you realize you are far too old ( or young!) to be there! Or alternatively, have you felt very at home in a bookshop or department store, delighted to be there and felt you could stay all day? Demographic groups do not mix within a library environment. Wherever possible, you need to position specific category departments in different corners of the library to maximise the department�s benefit and use and to encourage participation of each demographic group. It is not all down to the product available but rather the ambience and attendance to individual needs. In this article various retail techniques will be discussed, including butt-brushing, the importance of the male crche and why teen zones should be in your front window. The importance of first impressions and your transition zone 70% of what a customer remembers about a business several weeks later will be based on their experience within the first few seconds of arrival. Retail businesses that are successful are acutely aware of this and ensure that the presentation of the outside of the building as well as the entrance and foyer are of high standard. Often the libraries we visit in our work suffer from neglect or poor planning and act as a �turn off� for many clients, as reported in several surveys. So, what are the key aspects to be aware of in this zone? 1. Stand outside your building and asses its cleanliness, attractiveness, color, landscaping and maintenance standards. 2. Your signage. Can your customers find your library? Does it say �Welcome�? 3. Your color scheme. Can you improve the building by incorporating a panel, band or banner in your corporate colors? 4. You�re landscaping � is it low maintenance, compact, evergreen or colorful? In addition, the use of prickly evergreens can deter vandals from spray painting walls. 5. Your entrance. Is it clean? Can you strike a deal with the local cleansing department for any high-maintenance trouble spots you have where people loiter? Are your doors and windows clear of posters and tape? Are the plants healthy? Do you advertise the wonderful range of products you have within the library or do you only have notices about what is not allowed in there? 6. Your display space. During the first few seconds of entering a building, people do not stop to linger and therefore retailers do not tend to put notice boards or displays close to the door. However, it is critical that a power display be placed just beyond this area, into the transition zone. Displays here can increase sales by 540%. Take a look at supermarkets and you will see that leading products are displayed here, often because the suppliers have paid a premium for the space. Don�t miss this golden opportunity to delight your customer. Children�s Zone I went to a conference many years ago where someone had coined the phrase �baiting the book hook�, referring to the importance of encouraging children to read and use their libraries. I am passionate about this as many librarians are but what can we learn from retailers? This should be a fun department using primary colors and the available walls to maximise the branding. Local schools should be encouraged to help in branding and decorating this department. If space is available, the use of play equipment is excellent. But, the objective is to expose this market to books. Book boxes should be incorporated in the play equipment. Use round primary colored rugs and cushions in the children�s zones to define and identify this space. If this space can be seen from the entrance, all the better. It will herald the children�s zone with no need for signage. In addition � this is great PR as most people (including those without their own children) have high regard for children�s services as an important livability factor. Many leading retailers have children�s clubs � children love being a club member as can be seen from the popularity of summer reading schemes around the world. Some libraries are taking this further, taking the opportunity to create special children�s� membership cards that have rewards and discounts with partner bookshops and retailers. Male Zone In our consultancy service, we highlight the newspaper area as a predominantly a male department. Males are currently being neglected in general retail and in overall public awareness. Shopping centers tend to target women. Therefore male zones will become an increasingly important social area for this target group, especially as more males are living alone today than ever before. Wherever possible you need to soften this area and make it more relaxing. Round tables and comfortable seats will encourage people to �linger longer�. The dcor needs to have a masculine influence, without going over the top. Try not to bunch tables together as this impinges on personal space. These areas often contain collections of magazines and is always interesting to contrast the arrangement of a retailer verus the librarian. In shops, magazines are displayed according to interest � often male subject areas and female separated. This statement often causes hackles to rise but it is seen as general rule of placing outdoor pursuits and sports titles together away from bridal, design and needle point. Libraries however tend to display in alphabetical order � we have seen the oddest neighboring magazines such as Playboy and patchwork quilter! This type of alphabetical neighboring of magazines could embarrass some customers and does not serve your customers� needs. The magazines should be displayed alphabetically within broad categories: E.g. Men�s magazines, Fashion, Home and Garden The magazine displays in newsagents are an ideal �model� to illustrate how to display magazines in categories. Young Peoples� Zone Youth zones are a critical area in libraries, but they must be designed to attract local youth. Los Angeles Libraries, USA, Christchurch Libraries and Tupu Library Manukau, New Zealand have done this exceptionally well. This is an area where you can be most adventurous, but you do need space and this can only be incorporated into larger libraries. In your smaller libraries, you may like to consider linking your teen book material within your AV sections and away from the children�s zone. It is essential that Youth Groups should be involved in the design of this department. Remember, this group is very much into visual imagery rather than reading books and this should be reflected in the product mix within this department. According to research the average youth of today has an attention span of 15 minutes. The furniture used is as critical as the graphics. We sometimes see great youth areas spoiled by the use of dull, institutional furniture reminiscent of school or a waiting room. Your queue zone Just as 70% of store impressions are first impressions, your check-out area is also critical. 20% of what people remember about a business will be concerning this zone. Research carried out by David Lewis and reported in his book �The Soul of the New Customer,� (ISBN 1-85788-298-9, Nicholas Brealey, UK), indicates queues are the second greatest stress factor when in public spaces. It has been reported that people who are first, second or third in a queue can be fairly content, but that the fourth person�s heart rate can be considerably higher. We recommend a �three�s a crowd� policy and encourage staff to be aware when another checkout should open. It is also recommended to train staff to acknowledge people in the queue as this can lower tension. All irrelevant signs and pamphlets must be removed from the counter area and placed in proper pamphlet holders. Encourage staff to throw away excess brochures that my not be so relevant for their area. You may like to consider commercial brochure management as used by some agencies. On the wall at the exit, for customers to see as they leave, there should be a large sign promoting events that will take place during the following months. For example: in February promote New Book Arrivals and events or talks for March. All team members should have and wear name badges with their first name on them. Those team members who do not want to use their own name should use a �stage� name. Part of building a friendly image is giving the customer the opportunity to use a name if they so desire. Keep a selection of �Trainee� badges in the office. When people forget to wear their badge it should then be a policy to wear a trainee badge. Conclusion Once aware of the key elements of various zones, it is interesting to then visit some leading retailers or entertainment venues to see the techniques in action. Library design often suffers from a compulsion to echo traditional municipal standards and place product in logical order. Best practice libraries are now aware of the importance of zoning and return custom is burgeoning. Be bold in your design and keep learning from the innovators � or even better � become one. To stay current with retail technologies in libraries, subscribe to our free e-newsletter for the library industry visit our website www.johnstanley.cc or email info@johnstanley.cc .

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