Friday, October 9, 2009

Library Community

The Concord Public Library, like many other libraries, couldn’t afford to purchase all the books they wanted due to budget cuts. So they began thinking outside the box and came up with a creative idea. Why not post a wish list so that patrons could purchase books to be donated to the library? It would be convenient for the customers and the library would receive the exact books they needed.

Great idea! If only they would have spent a little more time thinking about how to implement it. According to the owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Michael Herrmann, “The reason they had the problem was budget cuts, which are due to less revenue coming into the city…" Kind of a no-brainer, right? Apparently not.

The library director chose to post their wish list, not at the local independent bookstore, not even at the nearest chain bookstore, but online at the biggest competitor of these locals. “Their strategy to combat (the budget cuts) was basically to send money out of town. There seemed to be a real disconnect there…” Herrmann sent in a message to the people on his store's e-mail list, “In requesting donations through a national retailer, the city had neglected its traditional community partners while promoting a rival who neither pays city taxes nor employs city workers… In short, if you try to support the library by buying books from (online retailer), you are actually harming the library in small but significant ways."

Herrmann found another solution. He included links to the list of desired books in the e-mail and asked for potential donors to choose the titles they would like to buy. The list, which was posted online for a month and sold four books, was completely filled within 24 hours through Gibson’s. Herrmann then sent out a list of books requested for the Penacook branch and those were sold as well. Not too surprising since the customers of the local independent bookstores and the patrons of the local libraries are most likely one and the same. As librarian Brian Herzog points out, “Library communities are not just the people who come through the door, and certainly not just the people who visit the website. When libraries reach out to the community, we have to go to where the community is, and not just wait for them to come to us.”

After the feedback the library received over their decision, they now include the local bookstores when posting their wish lists.