|A library reading room|
Unfortunately this is funnier when read loud than when you read it. Imagine sitting at the reference or circulation desk and hearing, “Can I get the book for my class? How do I buy it?” The reverse is also true. The bookstore manager reports and some students think the bookstore is a library. We even get phone calls from people asking if we carry their textbooks. When we answer the phone we say “library” and still callers ask, “Is this the bookstore?” We have on reserve many textbooks, but the students are surprised that this collection is limited to two hour loans for in the library use only. Students also ask about “renting” books or charges for circulation. Sometimes I wish we could charge, but that would make this another kind of place.
In recent years libraries have learned about merchandising from bookstores. More than 10 years ago the library had bookstore type shelves to display books. Libraries and bookstores have installed snack bars or eating areas. Libraries have big signs that imitate retail merchandising, but libraries are not bookstores.
In the interest of helping students better understand how to tell the differences between a bookstore and library below is a handy-dandy guide to the similarities and differences. (Note this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. If you fail to see the humor, please let me know and I’ll tell you how to find the humor books.)
1. Purpose -- Libraries have the mission to select, collect, store, facilitate retrieval, and circulate materials in all published formats. They also teach research skills and offer places to read, study, and meet. Bookstores are businesses and their purpose is to make money for the owners or shareholders. No matter how well they serve their customers or how much the owners love books, selling and earning profit is their purpose and goal.
2. Names – Libraries usually have the word “library” in their names. The library may be named after a donor or famous person such as the John Washington Library or after a city or location such as Norwood Public Library or Eastside Branch of the Parkside Library. Schools may call their libraries media centers, learning resource centers, or information commons. They all have the above purpose. Bookstores usually have the word “bookstore” in their name, but may use shortened forms such as “Strands” or “B & N.”
4. Signage – Signs in libraries are informational, directional and promotional. The signs tell patrons how to use machines and where to find things and places. Bookstores also have informational, directional and promotional signs. A sign in the library may tell the patrons about printing or locating books in the stacks; a bookstore sign will tell customers where to find merchandise. The library signs want to inform and direct; the bookstore signs want you to buy more.
5. Architecture – Libraries have long rows of books called stacks. They have current and out of print books. They also have storage areas for non-print materials. Libraries are open and inviting places where readers can stay all day. Stores are
|Library stacks 2|
6. Personal -- When walking into a library you will meet circulation staff and reference librarians. Librarians are highly educated professionals who will help you in your information quest. Bookstores have salespeople who will guide you to merchandise and help you complete your purchase. (This is simplistic; there are managers but for the average reader or customer the managers and support staff are not seen.)
7. Organization – The library catalog is what distinguishes a bunch of books from an organized collection. The catalog will tell you the call number which is an address for where to find a book. Each book or other library materials are tracked as unique items. Bookstores will have inventory lists, but individual items are not tracked. One copy of a book is exactly the same as another. If inventory is sold, it is replaced. Merchandise items are commodities and tracked by the number sold. [fn 1]