Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Scan eye for the Straight Library

One of my colleagues today remarked about a library's physical layout and appearance--and compared it to a retail space. Physical layout and signage is something I would wager that most library staff and users take for granted, once there are enough computers, chairs, materials and librarians....they've done their job, now they just need people.

Not so fast
My colleague shared his first impressions of the space: "dim, disorderly and random."

Not such an auspicious beginning.
He explains that,
"after entering past a circ worker who ignores you, the first thing you encounter isn't a list of the days events, nor a well-designed way-finding system, nor a compelling presentation of the newest additions to the collection. No, what you see are discarded books and magazines, piled up in a wheeled cart, donated by the public.  The unconscious message: This is the place where your books can come to die.  It's like putting the dorkiest fashions no one wants at the front of Banana Republic. "

And it got me to thinking about physical layouts. My own beloved Whetstone (yay Clintonville!) has some lessons to be learned from Easton, shopping mecca of the Midwest. What's wrong with borrowing a few lessons from the Limited playbook? They do signage and branding as good as anyone. (I see they've won awards for it!) We don't have to market lipstick, lingerie, lotions or lassos to take a few lessons down

Lessons from the Limited playbook
  1. Put the fresh, new stuff up front, in an interesting visual display. Rotate it regularly.
  2. Cut the visual clutter--posters for posters sake doesn't cut it.
  3. Designate a community nexus area that is separate from the library per se. You aren't forced through the rock-climbing area every time you walk into Galyan's (a sports store--also a Limited Brand)...but it's available off to the side.
  4. Usability test your way-finding signage. Can a novice user figure out how to locate your highest priority collections--without resorting to the OPAC? Do a walk-through after hours with a nonlibrarian and see what happens.

Retail revenge?
Bookstores seem to have no trouble with the idea of merchandising the knowledge experience. Because they're retail. Somehow we're (libraries) are expected to play in the same space (more on this later)--but we're not willing to admit that this is the model for the rest of our daily hunting-gathering-outside-the-home behavior. Can we use a few retail tactics to lead people to what they're already looking for?

So that leads me back to the title of today's musing...Scan eye for the Straight Library. It hearkens from Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where 5 gay men with subject specialties transform a hapless straight guy into a hip guy who's had a lifestyle makeover.

Can we do a "Scan Eye" makeover on a library?

3 comments:

ahmet can said...

Thanks Best Regards
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ruhan said...

Thankings with my most beautiful requests

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