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Where the Library Meets the Bookstore

This week, The New York Times opened its most recent in a long line of articles on the changing face of the American public library with an amusing anecdote from Arlington Heights, Ill. – one which librarians in Minnesota can no doubt relate to.

The Arlington Heights Memorial Library, like most library systems of its size, utilizes a computer tracking system to gauge the popularity of new titles and to order a number of copies commensurate to demand. After the release of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, staff found themselves with not ten or even 20 – but 36 copies - of the bestseller circulating in their system. 

Having such a stockpile of one title reminded library staff strongly of that other bibliophile’s haven: the brick-and-mortar bookstore, where it is not at all uncommon to see a stand or kiosk devoted solely to a blockbuster author or one award-winning title. 


According to a number of recent works, including “Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model” and “Assessing Service Quality: Satisfying the Expectations of Library Customers,” librarians don’t necessarily interpret this as a “bad thing” – and certainly not as a trend likely to erode their institution’s underlying devotion to education and community enrichment.

Instead, as most librarians can tell you, catering to popular demand in this way offers a great opportunity. Specifically, it’s an opportunity to get people through the doors. Once in the building, patrons have a chance to see the valuable resources and programming your facility has to offer.

Who knows, while journeying to the reserve stacks for Fifty Shades of Grey, they may just even pick up a copy of a literary classic while they’re at it!

Can you relate to the idea of your library taking on some of the trappings (and responsibilities) of the brick-and-mortar bookstore? If you have a story you’d like to share, send the synopsis to MALF at info@mnlibraryfriends.org and we will post it as an addendum to this story.