One of the most visible differences between bookstores and libraries is the manner in which books are presented to the public. At bookstores, it is more common to find books displayed, cover facing out, while in libraries, books are usually shelved so that only the spine is readily visible. More and more public libraries, however, are adopting the practice of displaying books as bookstores do. What difference does this make to a library’s circulation statistics?
At Lafayette Public Library, Michele Seipp, Director, and Sandra Lindberg, Coordinator of Information Services, asked this question. Library managers assumed that patrons like to browse and will examine books on display, but they had no hard evidence of that. Likewise, they did not know if it mattered what type of books were on display (i.e., fiction, non-fiction). Because of the inconvenience involved in having displayed books out of place, library managers wanted to know whether the assumed increased usage was worth the need to hunt for books that aren’t “on the shelf” where they are “supposed to be.” Accordingly, during the first three months of 2002, Lindberg managed a research project to investigate these issues.
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