PLA 2020

PLA 2020 was held in Nashville from the 26th to 29th of February.


Creating A Diverse Patron-Driven Collection (DN)

Why I Went - I'm working on a diversity audit of our adult non-fiction collection and hoped to get some insights.
Presenters - The presenters were two librarians from Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Because I've done some coursework on diversity audits, much of the presentation was familiar. To start with, they outlined two elements to creating a library that serves a diverse patron population - collection development and programming. Collection development is intended to be quantitative and data-driven. Barriers to creating a diverse collection include budget and publishing trends - diverse titles have to be available for us to add them to the collection. Programming should be inclusive and current.

Cedar Rapids started with an audit, looking at their YA fiction collection. The audit looked at elements like cover art, the description of the book (some books considered inclusive might lack a short description that highlights their inclusiveness, making it easy for patrons to miss) and subject headings. They matched these elements against six criteria - economic welfare (class), LGBTQIA+, mental health, physical health, race/ethnicity and religion.

Cedar Rapids (CR) is roughly similar to Whitby in terms of population, but based on their census, is less diverse overall. Approximately 20 percent of Whitby's population was a identified as visible minority in the 2016 Census, compared to 14.7 percent for Cedar Rapids. However, the presenters obtained data from their school system indicating that 37.2 percent of students were member of a visible minority group. This means that the future of CR is likely to be more diverse than its present. I would love to get similar data for Whitby - the 2016 Census doesn't provide a breakdown for ethnicity by age.

The methodology for the study was as follows. They looked at about 20% of their YA collection as a sample, examining every fourth shelf to ensure that their choices were impartial. Items were examined physically, one at a time - they looked at covers, summaries and the copyright page - and were designated diverse or not diverse. The rationale behind examining the cover and description was to see things from a patron perspective - most patrons wouldn't be looking at subject headings or other library focused elements. 15.8 percent of their sample was diverse.

With those results, they 'purchased with intent.' That is, they tried to improve the diversity of the collection. They also continued to survey the collection and things improved - overall, the percentage went from 15.8 percent to 25.5 percent. There were also improvements in all of the six categories they were looking at.

Lessons learned included:

  • They started with a paper form but found Google Forms a much better tool
  • The audit took a lot of staff time and produced lots of numbers
  • Consistent language was important so data could be compared - they used Census language when possible
  • Publisher-provided info wasn't necessarily reflective, even when books did have diverse elements. For example, one of the books they examined had an asexual character but this wasn't reflected in the description or cover.
  • BISAC headings were used over LCSH

Their next steps involve improving on the 25 percent number. They're aiming for 50 percent diversity. As noted, the community's youth is quite diverse, so they're planning for the future. They also noted that the school district's numbers are based more on ethnicity, meaning that factors like disability, LGBTQIA+, etc. aren't taken into account. They'd rather have an overabundance of diverse books rather than too few.

In terms of suggestions, they suggested training & participation in webinars, researching other library practices and participating in literary movements to increase representation in social media. The idea is to ensure that everyone can find their place in the library and find a (book) character that speaks to them. Anecdotally, they had received lots of positive feedback from their efforts.

One interesting comment - an audience member asked about auditing non-fiction materials, which is what I'm trying to do. The presenters admitted that they were intimidated by the thought of auditing nonfiction, so that was encouraging.

An audience member from Illinois noted that they audited the films that they showed to the public on film night - we may want to consider this as well.


  • consider film audit
  • see if there's a way to specifically look at youth demographics in Whitby
  • Keep in mind what the patron sees when doing the audit, not just what we see

Database Promotion From The Inside Out (DN)

Why I Went - Always interested in drumming up more use of our e-resources, especially the traditional research stuff
Presenters - The presenter worked with the State Library of Oregon, which serves as a resource for government employees and public libraries in Oregon

The "inside out" in the presentation name refers to promoting resources to staff inside the system. For the Oregon State Library, this meant promoting more to state employees to encourage use. Internally, the presenter had a few suggestions:

  • Devise one-sentence descriptions of databases - sort of an elevator pitch
  • Have three examples of where it could be used
  • Know one particularly cool feature
  • Four general features to highlight, using a HALT acronym:

** Help screens
** Advanced search
** Limiters & search modifiers
** Terms (subjects)

She suggested making sure that everything is fully planned out before starting, including a method of evaluation - i.e. evaluating the success of the initiative.

For external promotion, she differentiated between everyday promotion at the desk by frontline staff and promotional events. Most of the rest of her talk centred around promotional events, specifically an initiative where they highlighted their Safari tech eBook service. The initiative was called "Safari September" and included various safari/animal themed events. More generally, in creating promotional events, the presenter suggested:

  1. Asking for help - it shares the load and creates opportunities to get fresh faces involved (i.e. colleagues who don't usually work with databases)
  2. Determining target population for the initiative
  3. Establishing goals - these should be measurable, and there should be a comparison of where we are now vs where we want to be
  4. Developing marketing and communication plans
  5. Determining success (see #3) - she noted that there would be a bump in Safari use after their promotion, but they wanted it to stabilize at a higher level than where it was before.

For their Safari September event, the library did the following:

  1. Created an ad hoc team from various library departments
  2. Decided who their target was - state employees and users of a previously-owned database that was cancelled
  3. Set goals, which included:

** increasing registration and use (with an actual number goal)
** promoting the database
** providing info
** sharing with various state agencies

  1. Created a marketing & communication plan involving a newsletter, training (in-person and online), promotion at a work conference, visiting other government buildings
  2. Measured success by seeing if they met their promotion goals (e.g. went to X work events) and their outcome goals by evaluating statistics


  • Most of our online resources do pretty well, but more staff work / training is definitely a good thing. Maybe more events with prizes to encourage participation?

Curbside Delivery (DN)

Why I Went - This seemed like an interesting idea, nothing like anything we're doing. Also, the physical layout at Central and Brooklin made it seem possible
Presenters - The presenters were two librarians from Tulsa, Oklahoma

Curbside delivery (in Tulsa's case) means delivering hold items to patrons in their cars. The session described the process that they used to set up their system and what they learned. The first part of the process involved planning - looking at other libraries and trying to anticipate challenges. Here's what they learned in their survey of other systems:

  • Delivery locations and signage varied. Some systems use an unmarked space (which is then communicated to patrons), others put up signs or sandwich boards.
  • The scope of services also varied. All libraries deliver materials, but only some would accept returns or deal with account issues. Almost no one accepted fine payment. Another question was whether there would be a limit on the number of items one could have delivered.
  • Customers would complete a request form online and either call from the delivery spot when they arrived or pre-schedule a pickup time.
  • Weather was a consideration - umbrellas would be required
  • Hours of service varied. Would they match the library's open hours, including evenings and weekends? Or would they be at certain times only?
  • Another question was whether there would be a dedicated phone line or whether patrons could use a regular line.

They also considered some challenges and service impacts. These included:

  • Weather
  • Staff & customer safety
  • Staffing questions - would demand be a problem during periods of lower staffing?
  • Would the workflow require scheduling changes?
  • Would the service result in more holds, meaning that items would need to be pulled faster?
  • Would it lead to an impact to walk-in traffic? opportunities to tempt patrons with other items could be lost.

After investigating, they set up their own pilot programs at a couple of branches:

  • Hours were restricted to 1-6, Monday to Thursday - this avoided busy storytime hours
  • Delivery spots varied by branch. One was a loop, another a parking spot.
  • The service was available for up to 50 holds. Returns were fine, but no other services were available.
  • The procedure worked like this: patrons would arrive and phone a number with a dedicated line (e.g. press 3 for pickup). Staff check the account on the phone, retrieve the items and deliver them. The process takes about 5 minutes.
  • Signage, carts and umbrellas cost roughly $600 per branch

In evaluating, they kept track of the number of pickups & returns, weather and comments. They also looked at patrons by name to see how many repeat customers they were getting. Overall, feedback was excellent. The patrons who used the service loved it. It was a particular favourite with caregivers who arrived with a carload of kids. Weather wasn't the issue that was expected, and they found that staff enjoyed getting outside to make the deliveries. There were few requests for additional help (fine payment, etc.), and during the occasional times when someone asks for the service outside of the assigned hours, they've just done it. Another potential problem was whether people would use the designated space as a regular parking spot, but that happened only once.

There would be a few challenges for us to work out - for instance, it's hard to use regular carts on the cobblestone surface at Central, so something with larger wheels would be required. Overall though, it seems totally doable. Ideally, we could also offer people the option of texting instead of calling.

A Moonshot Initiative to Boost Circulation (DN)

Why I Went - Ultimately, much of what we do is about what goes out the door. And those numbers have been dropping, even as our population is increasing. At the same time, I attended a Calgary presentation at OLA a couple of years ago and some of the content was familiar.
Presenters - The presenters were two librarians from Calgary Public Library

Like many libraries, Calgary has experienced a drop in circulation. Their "moonshot" was an attempt to return circulation to that of previous years - it had dropped to 13 million annually, and they wanted to return it to the 16 million of years past. The challenges were many - they were removing CDs and DVDs from several locations, meaning those numbers would be lost. The library's budget was cut due to a larger municipal spending reduction. At the same time, they opened a new Central library and a new branch - this wasn't discussed much, but it seems to me that these factors would result in an increase in circulation - our numbers went up with our new Central and when the new library opened in Brooklin.

Elements of the initiative included:

  • Support from library leadership, including permission to try new things and think outside the box
  • An aspirational goal to inspire everyone (the 13 to 16 million)
  • A catchy name
  • Staff champions in various parts of the organization
  • An internal communications channel for the team
  • Measurement methods

Here are some of the things they did to increase circulation:

  • Paperbacks (regular, not mass market) were displayed at the front in each library branch. All branches receive the same titles, all bestsellers re-released in paperback. They're sort of like rapid reads but patrons can renew them four times. Quick related note, CPL removed all of their mass market paperbacks in 2014 due to a drop in circulation.
  • They created relationships with local 'influencers' - these are prominent locals and program presenters - and asked them to recommend various titles. These were always popular.
  • They created non-fiction theme displays - biographies, wellness, etc.
  • Children's story book collections were also curated - e.g. princesses, dinosaurs, things that go - this created a 38% circulation increase
  • Children's nonfiction categories were created (make it, facts, science, tales, our world) and displayed accordingly - 20% circulation increase. As a side note, some of these were part of a display in the Central Library "Questionarium" which consisted of books in opaque boxes. The boxes were originally purchased for adults, but didn't really work. Kids loved the however - I think the boxes were grouped by subject and contained a bunch of books. Kids were curious enough to open them up, or possibly check out the whole thing - not totally sure how that works.
  • Electronic checkouts were also a major part of the equation. CPL connected with Toronto PL, which incidentally has the highest Overdrive circulation in the world at 1.6 million. CPL reoriented its Overdrive page accordingly. Right now, the first 3 sections are always available audio (not something we have), "spy vs spy" and "have you seen my shirt?" It looks like these are theme collections. By comparison, ours are newly added, most popular and an Overdrive-created theme collection.

Displays were an important part of the initiative. One thing that Calgary doesn't do is "hide" popular items - in other words, they don't subscribe to the "put the milk at the back of the grocery store" model. I've often wondered how well it would work for us to put popular stuff (e.g. DVDs) further in, maybe when we remove our CD collection. Probably not as effective as I like to think. Anyway, CPL doesn't do that. I remember learning (at OLA) that they once tried moving holds further in, but found that library users savvy enough to place holds were already good customers and that the move didn't help.

CPL's general display guidelines included:

  • 'Handmade' displays weren't allowed, but staff could work within certain guidelines
  • Efforts were made to ensure that displays look "touchable" - i.e. that it's ok to remove items and check them out. I think this is a problem we have.
  • No display props
  • No colour matchy displays - I was a fan of these at one time since they're eye-catching, but at the same time, items on them don't move well
  • Cover outward displays only, and only with attractive looking books
  • Staff training on effective display methods helped

In the end, they didn't quite meet their moonshot goal - 15.1 million, but still really impressive.


  • The themed Overdrive collections look fun - we were looking at creating collections and revamping the landing page, but I'm not sure where we are on that project.
  • Weeding didn't really fit into Calgary's project as they weed pretty ruthlessly already.
  • I feel somewhat limited by our displays - it would be nice if we could replace our gondolas.
  • I like the aspirational idea - picking a target from a few years ago and making it an institutional goal
  • CPL has a "Visitor Experience Team" that determines best customer service practices and standardizes them. Maybe our customer service team could perform a similar role?

Addressing Bias in Your Catalog (DN)

Why I Went - I believe that we have a student working on this project, but it would be good to contribute if possible. Also, it fits in with the diversity audit.
Presenters - This one was a panel. A library school friend from Hamilton PL was presenting, as was a librarian from Brookline, Massachusetts and a cataloguer from OCLC.

The presentation started with a statement - libraries aren't neutral an neither is cataloguing. We're told to be objective and inclusive of all viewpoints in our collection, but bias is part of how we do things - the best example is Dewey, which devotes 65% of the 200s to one aspect or another of Christianity, or drops various religions into the 398s as folklore. Or various LCSH subject headings, some historic and some still in use (e.g. Illegal Aliens). And while this is may be a cataloguing thing, or an LCSH thing, the public will only see it as a library thing - they don't differentiate between frontline and back office functions. The solution to this problem should be local, not merely passed down from groups like OCLC.

Hamilton's process sounds similar to what we're doing. As part of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, HPL wanted to move away from the "Indians of North America" subject heading, which we also use. Everyone agrees that things need to change, but using settler / colonizer terminology isn't the answer. In other words, librarians shouldn't be the one choosing the headings. Hamilton enlisted management support and planned their project, which involved seeking guidance from indigenous librarians. Victoria PL has done a fair bit of work in this regard, which we are drawing on. And it is totally OK to adopt best practices (i.e. copy) from other libraries in this case.

Brookline's project sounds even more ambitious. They basically want to reclassify their entire nonfiction collection, processing every book one at a time. As they do this, they're documenting the process and explaining things so future cataloguers / librarians can understand what was done. This is a huge project and requires buy-in from all levels and departments, from management to technical and even shelving. Obstacles include staff demographics and biases, staff turnover (new employees need to be on board), the structural biases in Dewey and LCSH (mentioned above) and transition time. In some instances, books about the same subject will be in two different places in the library until weeding / attrition takes care of the older ones - this will take time. To implement, they rely heavily on weeding as they go to reduce the work. They tackle one section at a time. Brookline also mentioned that this is being done to improve discoverability as well as inclusiveness - hopefully, patrons will have an easier time finding things. Years ago, the subject heading for cookbooks was "cookery," a ridiculous term to anyone working a public desk in a library. Eventually, the powers that be (OCLC) decided to change it to "cooking," a much more user-friendly term.

The final presenter was the OCLC staffer. She noted that it's possible to propose changes to Dewey / LCSH and indicated that they are in the process of examining headings related to witchcraft. Proposals can apparently be made at, but that redirects to the main Dewey change, where I saw no sign of a feedback form.


  • We don't have the resources to do a massive recataloguing effort like Brookline's, but hopefully Victoria will offer us ways to help with the Truth & Reconciliation process. HPL noted that LSC is working with them so we might be able to enlist some help from them as well. Overall though, we're under a different treaty area than Hamilton so our subject headings may be different in the end.

Breaking Down Barriers to Workforce Development (DN)

Why I Went - With the GM closure, we may have opportunities to help our local workforce with adjustments
Presenters - The presenter was from Toronto PL

As the session started, I gradually realized that I had seen some of the content in a panel discussion at OLA a couple of years ago. At that point, TPL was just starting their program so it was an opportunity to see how they had fared in the time since. Also it was too late to jump to another session once I realized the overlap.

TPL wanted to support both individuals and companies, designing an initiative that would help both meet their needs. Toronto has a large tech sector. It needs workers, but more specifically it needs people with tech skills as well as soft skills. The sector is also lacking in diversity. At the same time, Toronto has a diverse population and a high rate of poverty among its workforce (the working poor). Using training opportunities, they hoped to bring these two groups together for mutual benefit. The library worked with Toronto's Social Services department, so clients were likely receiving income support through Ontario Works.

To start with, TPL looked at their training. In the past, they had used 90-minute classes and a boot camp format. Boot camps were too intimidating for much of the target population, so they tried a learning circle approach with the circles facilitated by library staff skilled in the field. The actual material was based on Cisco's Networking Academy and the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Groups were divided based on demographic factors.

The Cisco groups seemed to be mostly successful, but there were variations. The 45+ age group was the most successful, and a single parents group also did well although they had change their schedule to accommodate daycare. The 18-29 age group was less successful - they were looking for more concrete training. Overall, 88 people enrolled and 81% graduated. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate program was jointly held with other large Canadian libraries. It involved an 8-month course with 10 instructional hours per week, with homework. 74% of participants graduated from the four libraries involved.

One major problem is evaluation. TPL doesn't get detailed information on how well participants fared, so they don't really know how successful the outcomes actually were. Privacy is paramount, especially when working with social services agencies. The anecdotes they heard were positive, however.

The program continues and TPL continues to make adjustments, expanding their course offerings. They're hoping to expand beyond Cisco and Google, noting the philosophical issue with holding such company-centred training.


  • Do we ask one-on-one participants how the plan to use the skills they learn? Anecdotally, it seems that many are seniors looking for assistance in specific tasks, but we do occasionally hear from people who want to enhance their skills for the workplace.
  • Right off the top, the presenter noted that everything depends on the local context. Toronto's situation isn't the same as ours - while I've heard that 360 Incentives struggles with staffing, I don't get the sense that we have the same tech sector demand. Our population differs as well. Basic employment needs in Durham are well met by Regional Social Services and other agencies. So I'm not sure if there's a local variation we could use or niche we could fill….energy sector?

Formulating An Inclusive Marketing/Communications Strategy

Why I Went - As part of the Social Media team, I want to help ensure that our marketing and communications are inclusive.
Presenters - The presenter was the founder & CEO of a marketing company. She was also part of the effort to launch the marketing department at the Indianapolis Public Library.

My notes are all over the place for this session, but I'll try to summarize as best I can.
Our goals should include inclusion, racial equity (defined as when race doesn't determine outcomes, everyone has what they need to have to thrive and when everyone is meaningfully involved - the thing we should be paying the most attention to) and cultural sensitivity (approaching people from other cultures in a sensitive and accepting manner). We need to acknowledge that there's a lot we don't know and we should be prepared to bring people & groups on board that do know. We should also be looking to the future - Millennials are the most diverse generation to date and 70% of those surveyed indicated that they're more likely to buy from brands that care.

To do this, we need to:

  1. Be open
  2. Be intentional
  3. Be teachable
  4. Be humble and prepared to ask for help from outside organizations

Barriers to diverse / inclusive marketing include staffing, resources, limited conversations with our audience and a lack of support from higher-ups. She also mentioned fear of how new content will resonate. Opportunities include hiring more diverse staff and finding partners in the community.

In terms of creating content, she suggested that we concentrate on pop culture and local events, and following the rule that 85% of our social media content should be about others. We should highlight holidays and times of year and use diversity hashtags. Everything should be about conversations and not preaching. And we should make connections with outside groups. Everyone is scared of making mistakes in this sort of situation. If we do, we should admit our mistake and apologize (ideally with a contact person to answer questions).

The presentation is available in its entirety on YouTube.


  • Is there a statement about diversity / inclusiveness on our website? Or some mention of diversity / inclusiveness in our marketing strategy?
  • Generally, this is something we always need to keep in mind when doing social media or marketing generally.

Enhancing the Patron Experience through Visual Merchandising

Why I Went - As noted earlier, much of what we do relates to what goes out the door, and with circ stats in decline, display and merchandising can be a big help.
Presenters - Two librarians from Columbus, Ohio

People are willing to be inconvenienced for a great experience. For some patrons, libraries are inconvenient. You have to share and possibly wait for the thing you really want, which is difficult in a world geared to instant gratification. We have to provide a great experience to make up for that, and the visual experience is part of that. Here are some of the elements of merchandising / visual experience:

  1. Rule of 3 - we have a psychological attraction to things grouped in threes for some reason
  2. Balance - we find symmetry and balance soothing
  3. Placement - putting things at customer eye level
  4. Cross merchandising - grouping things can encourage unexpected purchases
  5. Simplicity - too much choice is overwhelming

In a library setting, effective displays help us put customers first (as it helps us help them discover new things) and communicate our values. Using the elements above could include adding high-interest adult titles near children's displays and ensuring that items are at the proper eye level for the intended population. They also suggested that customers are less worried about 'wrecking' displays if there are lots of items available, particularly multiple copies of the same popular item. Displays should also be well-maintained and replenished frequently, with items straightened and brought forward - customers will make up their minds quickly. As much as we like to make creative signs, the presenters believe that we should use the wide variety of attractive book covers to their fullest extent. To that end, we should choose well and make sure that display books are in good condition. People are turned off by ratty materials.

As noted earlier, displays help communicate our values. To this end, we should ensure that the diversity of the community is reflected in our displays - customers should see themselves in library materials.

Training was important in Columbus. They formed a visual merchandising team to develop training and create a best practices handbook. Each branch then sent staff to be trained in a two-hour session. One nice thing about the initiative is that it provides interested staff with a creative outlet for expression. In future, training will be centralized and made available to new and interested staff. Each branch receives new display ideas every month and other resources are available.

It should be noted that an audience asked about quantitative measures of how effective the displays are, and according to my notes, these aren't really available. That's kind of astounding to me.


  • If we were to do something like this, we would need to select a project lead, create a team and set up training. Columbus is a bigger multi-branch system so we could probably create a team with representation from each branch.
  • Looking at Columbus' training materials, it would be (really) helpful for us to have different display shelving. We're refreshing our patron furniture this year, but having new shelving would be great too. Maybe a team could work on this as well, if the money were available.
  • Definitely come up with some way to measure effectiveness.

Bringing Personalized Service to Digital Readers’ Advisory

Why I Went - The program description described "Book Matchmaker," an online reader's advisory tool. I was curious.
Presenters - Librarians from the Darien Public Library in Connecticut

Darien PL wanted to revamp their previous RA program - problems included patrons who didn't pick up their titles and excessive staff time required to choose books. They were looking for a solution that would take less staff time and better enable them to build a relationship with patrons. The revamp was a "mashup of Stitchfix and Buzzfeed quizzes. I'm not really familiar with either of those things. Basically, patrons fill out a "fun" online quiz (includes questions like what's your sign, what's your favourite colour, etc.), get matched with a book and pick it up.

Before, patrons received an email listing five recommended books every six weeks. Under the new system, a single book is checked out to them for a 4-week loan period with no fines, every 12 weeks. The change from 6 to 12 weeks means less staff time, and the no fine policy suggests an exclusive members-only experience. It did well enough after launch that they had to bring in extra staff. The name of the new service was Book Matchmaker (previously called BookFix).

The revamp launched in 2015. Today, patrons fill out a form online and are matched with a staff member. They receive a welcome letter with their first recommended book with the 4 week checkout noted above, every 12 weeks. Separate kids and teen services were created as well. The kid's quiz consists of yes/no questions with images.

They made it all sound pretty easy to do. The form was created using Jotform, although it could also be done with Google Forms or Survey Monkey. Publicity was done through local media, library displays and social media. Since it's called Book Matchmaker, there was a Valentine's Day tie-in. They recommend a pilot project to start and really like the longer turnaround. On the back end, schedules need to be made and adhered to and deadlines met to ensure that patrons get their books. Their biggest challenge was actually that it was too successful, causing staffing issues.

They suggested the following steps:

  1. Evaluate existing resources to make sure it's doable
  2. Buy in from admin and staff
  3. Make sure the staff doing the actual RA are involved in designing the process
  4. Build the brand
  5. Promote
  6. Maintain the service after the launch


  • Under our present circumstances, we may have an opportunity to add a little to our new DiscoverReads service that we've launched while we're closed. Darien's page seems to be closed for the duration as well but perhaps they're available for questions.


Here are some of the booths I visited at Expo:

  • Reference USA, parent company of Reference Canada, finally gave me an explanation of how they derive the the business earnings number displayed in their business listings. It is indeed an algorithm. I suggested they add an explainer, similar to the one they have for a business credit rating.
  • FE Technologies is an Australian RFID company and competitor to Bibliothecha.
  • Looked at Transparent and Pronounciator, both language instruction services. As CD players disappear, we may need a replacement for our kits in the 400s.
  • We've looked at SimplyMap, a business demographics service, in the past. With PCensus no longer an option, they suggested a trial might be a good idea.
  • NoveList now provides media mentions, including CBC Radio. This means that we can look up books based on author interviews and mentions on radio and TV. They also have "if you like" lists based on TV shows - e.g. if you like "Stranger Things," you might enjoy X.
  • Morningstar, a financial reporting service, is looking at making their service available in Canada in 2021.
  • Looked at the new Hoopla 2.0. It's sort of a merged platform for managing / purchasing eBooks from them and other vendors - we could continue to use it with Overdrive. Its scheduled release date is Q3 in 2020.

Vendor event - CollectionHQ Forum (DN)
CollectionHQ held a reservation-only event at a local restaurant where we were treated to lunch and presentations. Since I've attended CHQ forums before, some of the material was familiar. For instance, they provided statistics on illiteracy and the return on money spent on adult literacy - every dollar spent creates a return of $7.14. New and up-and-coming CHQ product features include new more flexible spending plans, storage branches (like Oshawa's basement Stacks) and longer-term, a mobile app.
Wendy Bartlett from the Cuyahoga County library presented "Merchandising for Success." She's currently writing a book about the topic. Merchandising is about first impressions - surprising and delighting customers. Good merchandising understands customers, and doesn’t and doesn’t try to change them. She suggested that we sometimes have a rescue mentality in that we try to save books from being discarded. I know that I myself am somewhat guilty of that. She said that library marketing has three basic steps:

  1. understanding with the customer wants
  2. changing your buying habits for the library accordingly
  3. buying in quantity

This is fairly straightforward. Point 3 was kind of interesting though. For some customers, scarcity equals exclusivity - there was a picture of a sparse, modern-looking retail display. However, for many, quantity is relaxing. People like to see lots of stuff on the shelves as it makes them feel relaxed - this translates to lots of books on a shelf. And if we don't actually have quantity, the impression of quantity will do the trick - for instance, if we're short on certain bestsellers, other books can make it look like we have lots.
Wendy suggested that there are two kinds of merchandising - micro and macro. Macro involves making sure that the stuff is in the right place or branch, while micro refers to pinpointed displays and paying attention to traffic patterns. She suggested using various CHQ reports to accomplish this - turnover for all age groups, top authors and experimental placement (using it to mine the top lists for stuff just about to peak).

Interesting final point - she also said that we "flunk" if the customer asks if they can take books from a display (this has happened to me). Nice artful displays are too nice to touch, and people don't want to wreck them by removing something. Display should be inviting.

The next presenter was Jennifer Lawson from San Diego County PL. She discussed their 'Marketplace Model' that was partly responsible for a major increase in circulation. From the sounds of things, Marketplace Model covers a lot of things, and included more popular materials and self-check. An article I looked at suggested that it meant "give the people what they want," which is something we've been trying to do for years. From a collection standpoint, they'll create displays by theme (e.g. mysteries and true crime). She also suggested avoiding 'wedding cake' displays (built in layers like a wedding cake) and that gondolas (which I believe we have) don't work well for nonfiction. She suggested that items all face out instead.

Much of the remainder of the presentation was on Collection HQ's ESP product. ESP is an add-on that predicts how well proposed purchases will circulate. We don't have it, and this part of the afternoon consisted of case studies of libraries that have successfully used it, so it wasn't super applicable. One interesting tidbit - one of the case studies reported that their turnover rate for nonfiction went from 1.8 to 2.2 or 2.3. Ours is 1.2, meaning that we're significantly lower than their 'before' number.

Finally, they referred to some other Baker and Taylor products, one of which included Sustainable Shelves. This is a partnership that they’ve developed as a way to get rid of discards. Libraries submit discarded books and then get credits within 30 days. These credits can be in the form of cash or they can be applied to collection HQ or other purchases. Their partners differentiate between which discarded books have value which are then resold and which ones don’t have value. The latter are disposed of. I don't believe this service is available in Canada.

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