Monday, November 19, 2007

Hacking the library: Marketing Music

One of the greatest opportunities my job provides is the ability to focus and tackle specific problems. For several years my boss has been heartbroken that one of our branches out circulates the headquarter library in music. He has a true love of music and would probably be happier as a full-time musician rather than as a library director. Since taking over as branch manager I've been able to work a little magic on various areas of the collection. Part of the success has been my effort, part my boss allowing freedom, but mostly it goes to some incredibly talented staff who make my ideas work. They figure out how we are going to take the hill while I decide which hill to take. You can go far with limited resources if you have the right people.

One day I was taking a gander at last quarters statistics and determined that the "music" branch out circulates us by a ratio of 5 to 1. Yes, they are winning, but heck I haven't spent one dime on music in the past year. To the best of my knowledge we haven't spent money in the past 5 years on music. Well the little wheels started turning and I started realizing that we could win in music circulation, if we wanted too.

So I polled my valued staff members and listened to what they told me:

1) We needed to do a better job buying music that patrons wanted.

2) Dewey for music isn't helpful to a patron browsing.

3) The music display is over crowded.

4) The music display is too easy to overlook.

With that input in mind I started mapping out a strategy. To solve the first issue I had to determine what music my patrons were interested in. The only place I see people buy music is Starbucks, and Cracker Barrel. So after some more discussion a staff member and myself went over to Starbucks and bought a copy of every CD they had. The folks at Starbucks were pretty nice. They honored the library tax exemption, gave us a discount, and provided several hundred iTune download cards for the library to pass out to patrons. So now we had a collection of music patrons might want and a steaming Cafe au Lait. To supplement these new CD's We picked through the existing collection for a few diamonds in the rough. To our surprise we found some real gems. Most of our music collection comes from the great music industry CD settlement of 2004.

Since Dewey for music isn't helpful we decided to switch to genre based shelving. We already had the music arranged in genre specific statistical categories so that was a relatively pain free switch. Though the grumbling of staff members making labels can be deafening at times.

Fixing problems three and four was just a matter of ordering a new display and putting it in a place that could not be overlooked. The display pictured below was around $150 to purchase, unfortunately it cost $150 to ship so it ended up costing more than I wanted to pay but, that happens. Placing it was simple, smack down in front of the circulation desk was a no brainer.

Now for a total investment of less than $1,000 we have a wicked new music collection that people cannot miss. The results are already showing an uptick. Last quarter music circulation was a mere 22% of the "music" branch. This month we have circulated 38% of the total music circulation of the "music" branch. Not bad at all for a 2 week old project. Small focused projects that make a noticeable difference are what I like most about my job.


J Pickle said...
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J Pickle said...

What you are doing is merchandising, and I've seen it work in public libraries just as well as it does at numerous retail chains across this country. I love to display our new books, picking out those I feel are intriguing, sometimes based purely on the cover art and/or an interesting title. Some may say that you can't judge a book by its cover; to those folks I would say, "Maybe not. But you can circulate a book by its cover." Of course, bestsellers are a no-brainer, but I enjoy promoting the less obvious choices. I love watch which ones "move" the fastest. I think I'm pretty good at it after years of retail merchandising in college.
Erik, how many CDs does your rack hold? Can you flip through the CDs? We also have ours arranged by genre in a flip rack. I'm looking for some new inexpensive, high-volume CD racks.

Erik the Tall said...

Pickle, you can find the display here along with all the details:

As of today I am within a 100 music circulations of the music branch. I'm salivating at the thought of winning in music circulation for the month. I know I'll win next month.