April 2008 Archives
I've never been to the Public Library Association's Annual Conference. This year, since it was in Minneapolis, I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn a little more about the public library world. I only attended one day of the conference, but it was well worth it! Below is a brief summary of one of the more thought provoking sessions I attended. Check out the pictures--notice the shape of their stacks! I also attached a document with a write-up of a couple of the sessions I attended as well.
WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? THE IDEA STORE AND THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES
Perhaps the most interesting session I attended at PLA was about the UK’s new IDEA stores. They’re not actual retail stores, they’re LIBRARIES. The first IDEA store opened in Tower Hamlets, the 4th most deprived area of the United Kingdom in 2002. The old library was getting little use and before plans to rebuild began, they realized they needed to survey their nonusers. They made house calls to talk with people who did not use the old library. The number one reason people did not visit the library was because it wasn’t located next to any other place they visited on a regular basis, like their grocery store. Another common reason those they surveyed did not come to the library was because of the physical condition of the building. It wasn’t a very welcoming place.
Those involved in this library revitalization project looked at the retail world as well, and based some of the services they now provide on that model. For example, all of the library staff at IDEA stores wear uniforms. When you walk in the door, the first thing you see is a coffee shop, with branded IDEA coffee mugs. IDEA stores are built next to other major stores (like supermarkets), and the IDEA stores stay open the same hours as the other retail stores. When the IDEA store is closed, they open them up for community events, like family sleepovers. The IDEA stores hire outside teachers/instructors and offer a wide range of classes.
Just by looking at the outside of an IDEA store, you would immediately recognize it as such. They’ve put a lot of effort into branding. Just take a look at the following photos:
Here’s one interesting statistic: the IDEA Web site is in the top 2 for most visited Web sites in London (in the top 15 for the UK).
If you’re looking for more information, here’s a handout from the session.
I would have liked to hear more about the inner workings of the library. How did the technical services dept. have to change to support the new IDEA Store? We just didn't have enough time in the session--and it was packed with people!! Anyone know any UK librarians?