Does Library circulation = library sales? What do you think?

First, let me say that I absolutely love the idea of libraries following a bookstore model so I’m already coming from a biased opinion. I think that, in general, libraries have a lot to learn from all retail businesses about getting our resources off our shelves and into the hands of our patrons. In fact, I would even go so far as to relate an item circulating in libraries making a sale in retail. It seems to me that having the objective of increasing the number our library materials coming off of our shelves in an efficient manner is the same thing that retail stores are attempting to do with their sales. If that’s true, and a library wants to increase its circulation or its “sales” maybe I should just start calling the circulation of library materials, library sales?

There are, of course, quite a few differences between library materials and retail products. For example, people have to return a library item and the item is owned by

Are we increasing Circulation or Sales?
Are we increasing Circulation or Sales?

the people of the community as whole through the government purchase and distribution of it. The item can be “re-sold” a multitude of times and people only pay for the item if it is lost, damaged, or returned late. We try not to let the market dictate too fully about which items are purchased. And I’m not suggesting that we are competing with bookstores or retail markets because I think we serve fundamentally different purposes. But really, I think that the actual process of getting the item off the shelf and into the hands of the patron is the same as making a sale and many of the techniques of making more successful sales can be applied to increasing circulation.

In the end, I don’t think that anything would really change about the actual circulation of library materials by simply calling it a new name except that we might begin to look at circulation in a new way and our “sales” would hopefully increase. By renaming the process we might look more closely at the vast number of more refined techniques that retail stores (not just bookstores) use to get their products into the hands of the people in their places of business. Perhaps by simply renaming the movement of the library materials we will get librarians to start thinking about using some of those techniques more often. So maybe from now I won’t “check out books,” instead I’ll “make sales.”

Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?

One thought on “Does Library circulation = library sales? What do you think?

  1. While I like some of the ideas that can be gleaned from a retail model, we as libraries will never be able to compete with the likes of a Barnes & Noble or Border’s. They have huge marketing budgets for signage and displays etc. We will also never be able to compete with the likes of Blockbuster or Netflicks for movie “sales”.

    Rather than try to compete with these retail outlets at THEIR game, we should be focused on capitalizing on our differences. Can anyone at Barnes & Noble help you with research? Can Borders provide you with primary sources? Does the staff know the difference between Turabian and API citation methods? Let’s focus on playing a game we can win.

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