Friday, November 22, 2013

Liberate your book cupboards and create a more true "bookstore" model in your school library?

We all enjoy the mental exercise of comparing libraries and bookstores as spaces where humans come to interact with books.

Libraries nobly address users' needs (the story goes), while bookstores focus on their wants -- and therefore provide a better browsing experience, being organized for optimum attention rather than intellectual access. 

Positing bookstores as the outside competition prompts us to examine and improve discoverability in our library environment -- to increase the likelihood people will find the books they want - or, more importantly, books they didn't even know they wanted.

First there's the basic environmental psychology of shopping, which Paco Underhill explained so well in his 1999 book, Why We Buy: the science of shopping -- what I think of as the "grocery store" approach. Put the most frequently purchased items at the back of the store, forcing people to walk through the space and be exposed to more merchandise.  Put the tempting last-minute purchases (the candy and gossip magazines) in the checkout aisle.  Make as much stuff face-front display as possible (who buys cereal by looking at the spine of the box?).

More commonly, talk of implementing bookstore models in libraries is associated with ditching Dewey (e.g., see this September 2012 article in School Library Journal) in favor of sections with real names on prominent signs ("Science Fiction", "Sports", "Travel", etc.), not decimal numbers.  Of course, we all ditch Dewey to some degree.  Everyone has an A-Z author-sorted "Fiction" section outside the 800s.  Many have a separate "Biography" section.  Every collection outside the run of the Dewey numbers can be claimed as a victory by the bookstore model.

The Magic of Multiple Copies


But there's one aspect of the bookstore model that most libraries don't or can't reproduce -- having multiple copies on the shelf and potentially more stock "out back" somewhere.

In our library this year, we have started to create "bookstore" sections.  Book covers facing out.  Rough grouping by author or genre.  Multiple copies behind the front book. And, most importantly, a paper place-holder sign showing you what book is normally shelved in the spot -- and a QR code to let you see how many copies are still available.

We started with the English Dept'.s resources, creating a Hot Reads for High School (over 250 titles so far) and a Middle School Reading Zone (over 170 titles so far).  Next the Math Dept. came up with a list of books to buy multiple copies, and the Economics Dept. wasn't far behind.  We've put those titles face-front at the beginning of the subject Dewey section in Nonfiction.

The best thing is - you can booktalk efficiently.  The selection is smaller and definitely selected - by virtue of the curriculum or a teacher or librarian. And there is an instant supply!

Because that's the usual frustration of a school librarian in front of a group of students - booktalking when only one copy is available.  What if you could booktalk a book and have 4, 6, 8, 12, 24, 144+ copies available?

The project started with our middle school's foray into Reading Workshop, with its focus on literature circles instead of whole-grade novel study, and our Grade 9 English teachers deciding they wanted to kick off the year with a wide reading initiative (inspired by Penny Kittle's Book Love) before having to hone in on IGCSE texts.

How could we quickly produce varied class libraries for 8+ English classrooms per grade level?  Where would these books come from?

Solution:  Take all the multiple copies previously purchased for whole-class novel study by the English Dept. and make them available to all students (when not required by a particular teacher).  Then choose some extra titles for purchase, whether in small or large sets, based on curriculum need or teacher/librarian choice.  Finally, for us, add in the multiple copies purchased as part of running of the annual Red Dot Awards (see history here).

Voila!  The library as massive class library.  With multiple copies of great books available on the shelf.  This is our "Best Books for Middle School" list, our "This is What Your Child Will Be Reading in English Class" list, our "What Your Teacher Recommends" list.  Parents love it, as do kids.  It's the quick pick-up zone.  The whole Fiction section still has a fantastic selection of books, but students don't have to negotiate it until they are motivated to do so.

I want to focus now on the logistics of our implementation.  Because there always are tricks that make things work, in any given situation.

Q:  How to you keep multiple copies on the shelf?

A:   Our shelves are deep enough to store a stack of books behind a simple metal bookend, bent to hold a front-facing book on display.  The excess are kept in a backroom, handy enough that library staff can go retrieve them to replenish the shelf stock or upon request.


Q:  What if all the "hot reads" are gone?  How do I know what is all out?

A:  There is still evidence left behind.  No titles out of sight, out of mind. We have made A5 (half of 8.5x11" sheets, for you Americans) printouts showing the cover plus a QR code and shortened URL -- which take you to the catalog, showing how many copies are still available.


QR codes are magic.  I've liked them from the beginning and have them sprinkled around my library, connecting the visible with the virtual.

I recommend you get ShortenMe in the Chrome Extension store.  With one click, you get an instant QR code and goo.gl URL.

NB: if you're using Follett Destiny, you always need to add your site number at the end of the URL before shortening it (e.g., blahblahblah&site=100).  Contact me if you use Destiny and don't know what I'm talking about.
The A5 paper signs go into re-usable stiff plastic "card cases". Sample at left.

Q:  How do people know if there are more copies out back?

A:  By scanning the QR code or typing in the Goo.gl shortened URL provided on every display stand -- both of which link into our catalog, e.g., click here to see availability of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.




As mentioned above, this model is being extended into subject departments in high school, creating pockets of the "bookstore experience" within the Dewey run.  Mathematics, Economics, History, and Drama are the first.

To the right are books on the Mathematics shelves in the Dewey section.

We have virtual walls, too, mirroring these bookstore sections -- thanks to a new HP large-format printer, which can make posters up to 1.x meters in size.  See examples in the slideshow below.

4 comments:

  1. I love, love, love this idea and think it might be a solution for the limited library I have just inherited. Somehow all teacher resources have ended up in the library - so we have class sets coming out our ears and nowhere to keep them - but voila! It's a strategy, I love it!

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