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Dispatches from PLA 2014 — Does This Display Make Me Look Fat?

by on March 18, 2014

“Appearances are everything.”  Perhaps not everything but to self-identified marketing maven Kathy Dempsey, looks are significant. At her program during the PLA 2014 Conference in Indianapolis, Dempsey discussed merchandising for libraries, and provided simple tips that libraries can use to boost their visual appeal. She argues that a well-developed display or space invites traffic and raises circulation. Intentional spaces and signage require more attention and effort, but they also can be fun outlets of creativity. “It’s more than just having books facing out,” she explains.  You’re injecting humor and expressing something about your library.  One example that she provided was a library whose signage read, “I Love Big Books and I Cannot Lie.”

Dempsey believes that merchandising can be simple and inexpensive.  Some tips she offers include

    • Move from the Outside Inward.  Highly visible signs with changeable text grab attention and represent your library even when it’s not open. She especially likes signage that viewers can see while driving or walking by.  And, she offers, feature your website’s URL when possible. Use signs at the front entrance to make a good first impression — but keep it tidy and spacious
    • Keep Clear Sightline. Dempsey cautions against cluttering your open spaces with tall shelves and signs.  Make it easy to see resources and service centers, such as your stacks and public service desks. Keep certain special resources in immediate view, such as collections in international languages, in order to welcome their users.
    • Display with Promotion. Sometimes you need to spell out ideas that may not be obvious to users.  A simple sign saying “No fee, 2-week checkout” can let first-time DVD browsers know that the terms are different from their usual video rental store. Or try a sign inviting patrons to check out materials from a display  
    • Teens Like Their Own Spaces.  Cool furniture, edgy signage, and quirky decorations let teens know that they truly are welcome — and appreciated.
    • Make the Most of Your Signage.  Use professional-grade photography.  Avoid laminating to comply with ADA guidelines and reduce glare for people who need visual accommodations. Use large-font ceiling signs to attract attention from faraway.Be Creative!  Dempsey cites a library that posted cardboard cutouts of headshots in their “Staff Picks” area.  Use props to tie it all together — such as towels, plastic buckets, and shovels for a beach display.  One library used their pillars to create circular bench spaces.

Kathy Dempsey is the author of The Accidental Library Marketer, and editor of the Marketing Library Services newsletter.  Find out more at www.librariesareessential.com.

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