Bookstore Model

I know I’ve written about the bookstore model before.  It’s not that I keep changing my mind, but I keep evolving in how it will look in my library.  My first foray into it was back in 2011, during my library school practicum.  It was quite successful for what it was – checkouts skyrocketed in given categories (593% increase in military books, I kid you not!), but my professor told me it was more a “featured collection” than really the bookstore model.


So when I started at MNW, I changed around collections at the elementary, included a featured collection section, but this past Christmas break did a quick move to bookstore model.  But when I thought of it, I knew I really wasn’t doing bookstore model.  You can’t move to the bookstore model over Christmas break, after all.  But it was a start, too – paying more attention to the subject than what was on the spine label.  (Some librarians were appalled that I would let students put all the primate books together, without regard to what’s on the spine label.  C’est la vie.)


So this summer, we’re doing honest-to-Pete bookstore model.  I talked a bit about it here.  I was gone for most of June and didn’t get started on it at the high school until July 1.  Still, it is looking great!  So for anyone who wants to put in the bookstore model into an existing library, here’s what we’ve done or are in the process of doing.  (Unlike a presentation I went to a few years ago that talked about doing bookstore model – for a brand new library, brand new books, and where a jobber did all of the work except shopping and choosing categories – this is with an existing collection, no brand-new shelves, no huge new collection.)


First, I took books off shelves and onto tables.  Eventually, I would move them around on the shelves, but I needed a little space to be able to do that first.  As I took them off, I looked at them and decided what type of book it was.  Classic?  Romance?  Thriller?  Humor?  I did this by looking at the back or inside cover, checking the Library of Congress cataloging data, or looking it up on Amazon or Follett and see where others have put it.  I chose some categories that eventually got absorbed into other categories – international books (like Nation by Terry Pratchett) went into either realistic or historical fiction, depending on the title.  Holiday books like A Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans got set aside for me to get out in December.  While I was working, I realized I needed a new category (survival) and we had to go back and see which ones should go in there.  I eventually ended up with these fiction categories:

Classics Fantasy Graphic Novels Historical Fiction
Horror Humor Mystery Paranormal
Quick Reads Realistic Fiction Romance Science Fiction
Sports Survival Thriller Urban

I have a paid helper this summer, and I corralled a volunteer (my daughter).  Donna made labels, Libby put labels on and straightened the shelves, and I started working on nonfiction.

Of course, I weeded along the way.  I can’t wait to get all done, do inventory, clean out any missing books, put in new purchases, and see where my average date lands.  I’m sure it will be improved!  (For now, we’re right at 15 years – 1998 average date).

After all that, then we’ll have to change the cataloging in the circulation system.  Since this has gone very quickly (many hands make light work), and since our system is online, we can all be on the system simultaneously and I’m sure it will take just a day to change all that (well, for the fiction).

So at the rate we’re going, if it were one person doing all this, it would take 4 days to sort fiction and nonfiction into their categories, and 6 to make and put on labels.  To be done still, I think it would take 4 to make and put on labels for nonfiction, another day to weed all the books out of the circulation system, and 6 to change the cataloging of all the books.  So, if I were completely on my own, it would take at least 21 days to get this done.  That really isn’t that bad!  But again, if you possibly can, get someone to help you because it’s good to have someone to ask about genres, to trade up jobs once in awhile, and just to chat with while you’re doing this rather monotonous work.

Finally, we’ll have to make signage.  I think we’ll either paint print dictionaries and put the genre name on the spine, make color print-outs with words and a picture describing the genre (then putting in a frame and standing on the shelf next to the books), or have my son make wooden boxes that he’ll laser the genre name onto the edge.  We’ll see.


Cox, Tamara. “Arts and crafts.” Creative Commons Copyright. Found here on Flickr.

Nonfiction is looking a little busier – almost twice the major genres as fiction – which is strange because I know it is a smaller collection.  So the signage will just be on the major categories here.  I’m still figuring all this out.  Here’s my major categories, and you can find the full list here (84 categories!).

Adolescence Agriculture Animals Art
Biography Cooking Facts Family & Relationships
Foreign Languages Games Health & Fitness History
House & Home Iowa Language Arts Literary Nonfiction
Math Medicine Music Nature
Philosophy Poetry Psychology Religion
Science Social Science Sports Technology

The elementary collection is so much larger, it might take a lot more time.  But by then, we’ll be old pros at it!

I don’t know if this will help circulation at the high school – heck, I wanted to be a librarian when I was in high school and didn’t read books (other than the occasional book – why this was in my school library, I’ll never know).  But I know it is making it a tighter, better collection, and if anything will improve circulation, this will.

Bookstore model in the school library

I recently finished my practicum for my MLIS degree – 50 hours in a middle school library and 50 hours in an elementary school library.  The middle school was a large one in an urban district, and the elementary was a smaller library in a rural district.  The middle school library did everything right as far as good practice goes (budget, staffing, collection), but I learned a lot more in the elementary library as it is a lot closer to the situation I will have soon at my new job in as a K-12 librarian in a rural school district.
One practicum requirement was that I had to do some action-based research.  Basically, I had to identify a problem of practice, come up with a possible solution, put the solution in place, and look at the results.  This librarian is at the jr./sr. high in the morning and the elementary in the afternoon, with nary a paraprofessional in sight.  At the elementary, the students love the library and really use it – so with that combination (high-use and low-oversight), the shelves were a mess, especially the nonfiction.  So I decided to implement the bookstore model, in part, anyway, with the hope that students would find books without messing up the shelves.  My adviser told me it’d be more accurate to say I implemented “featured collections” and I suppose she’s right.  Either way, this is what I did.
I chose six different areas of subjects to feature.  The library had a really nice piece of furniture (see below) that could be used to highlight different books.  The first ones I featured were horses, dogs, cats, drawing, military, and dinosaurs.  Later, I switched out horses for graphic novels, and then at the end, I took out dinosaurs and put in summer fun.
The results?  Per-week check out SKYROCKETED.  In every area, checkouts increased:
Horses – 28% increase
Drawing – 46% increase
Dogs – 85% increase
Cats – 171% increase
Dinosaurs – 211% increase
Military – 593% increase
Part of the high checkouts can be attributed to the fact that students are encouraged to return books as soon as they were done, so one book usually didn’t check out only once a week but maybe four or five times a week.  Still, almost a 600% increase!  We ended up finding other books to include, like books from the 900s on wars.  A book about World War I that probably should have been weeded for its lack of checkouts was now continually checked out.  The librarian decided to buy some more military books.  🙂  It did seem to keep the shelves cleaner, too, although that is harder to quantify.
I still don’t buy into the whole-hog bookstore model, like Darien, Connecticut’s library (for their under-5 collection, anyway – though I’d love to visit it someday).  But I think it’s a great way to market your collection.  And I think it proves the validity of nonfiction at the elementary level.  Even if students are checking books out to look at the pictures (of dogs, of soldiers, of horses), I think we’re doing something right by getting a book in their hands.