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Putting the Wow into Your Library Using Nonverbal and Merchandising Principles

October 19, 2009

Putting the Wow into Your Library Using Nonverbal and Merchandising Principles
Larry Nesbit, Mansfield Univ (retired)
Joyce Seno, Larson Design Group
Judy Brown, Brodart Co.

I was interested in this session as we’re thinking about reconfiguring some space in our library but have no budget, and I thought I could get some ‘free’ tips. Although the session was mostly directed at public libraries, there were lots of nuggets that academic libraries could use too.

The three speakers followed a format of each addressing the same ‘talking point’ from their perspective, usually with Nesbit first, and then Seno and Brown following. Larry is a Library Building Consultant and helps libraries develop a program for renovation within their budget. Once he’s consulted with the client, he’ll turn the project over to Joyce, the architect, who then designs a graphical plan (including HVAC and electrical). And finally Judy works with library to make decisions on furniture, etc.

They first addressed how much library buildings have changed so much in last 6 years, primarily in that libraries are now being designed from the user’s perspective not the librarians’. Libraries are (no surprise here) looking at retailers, especially bookstores, to pick up some cues for improving their space.

2 important factors to keep in mind: Everyone wants a cafe! Why? Because commercial bookstores have them! Also, computers are omnipresent.

Nonverbal communication is very important in design and varies by culture. 75% of how we communicate is nonverbal. Nesbit used an example from Wegman’s – they use ceramic tile to slow down carts in their produce section because they want shoppers to take their time. Use of flooring, smells and textures are important to the user experience.

Library as the 3rd space
1st space: Home
2nd space: Work
3rd space: Community space

Requirements for 3rd space is that it be safe and comfortable, provide social opportunities, and provide a place where people can accomplish something worthwhile

The retail view looks at space from a user’s viewpoint, and looks at different zones.

Civic zones:
-Outside the building, be aware of surroundings, look at retail stores
-Entrances are very important; take stuff off windows and doors, it creates clutter and confusion
-Put displays and maybe a bench in your vestibule
-When you walk into a Borders, what do you see? Books. When you walk in a library, what do you see? The Circulation Desk. Don’t make your users have to hunt for your ‘stuff’
-When you create displays, don’t put too much on display, which causes confusion
-Leave enough space so people are ‘butt-brushing’ – women especially hate this

Information commons idea is the marriage of computers with service
Villanova (which used Larson) used individual and group work stations, flooring/carpeting to direct the traffic flow, and decluttered. The individual and group areas are both important; want to let users create a sense of territory and privacy.

Brodart has designed some flexible Information Commons furniture – “grid wall” to separate spaces.

Seating is important, “seating says you care”. Use empty space or extra space for placing seating. Seating is the #1 request of users. Keep seating next to windows or use lamps if cannot.

Keep in mind the use of endpanels in your stacks. The stacks are the “Forgotten Zone” — we want users to get into the stacks and use more. Carve out searing in stacks areas. Pull out some books for display, if possible. Use lower shelving too. Have ‘lookup stations’ with computers at ends of stacks, for ease of use.

Administrative Zone — how to get a flow through technical services. May need to reconfigure this area too.

Larry recommended reading Paco Underhill’s book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping; it’s a classic! I didn’t manage to snag his bibliography, so I guess I’ll have to email him for a copy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2009 2:14 am

    Good writeup, Linda! I also blogged about this session here:

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