Thursday, March 1, 2012

Library bookstores become an important source of revenue

Bookstores continue to disappear, but a question remains: where are the used (and new) books going? One answer may be as near as the local library.

More library systems are discovering that having books for sale is a way to boost revenue year-round. Where the annual library book sale would bring in a once- or twice-a-year increase to operating capital, books for sale inside libraries (sometimes brand-new titles) have been a big success in many library districts.

More than just racks of paperbacks in some locations, these used-book areas offer coffee and snacks, along with plenty of room to read. And patrons are willing to support these stores-inside-of-libraries to benefit lagging revenues.

Kathleen Pierce of the
Boston Globe recently reported on the growing success of library stores in Quincy, Massachusetts with some surprising results -- strong sales have enabled the library system not only to make long-needed upkeep but also to purchase digital readers and software that allows free access to library materials.

Surprisingly, the variety of available titles extends beyond best-sellers and classics as more people discover the bookstores and donate everything from how-to manuals to cookbooks -- and much more. As one interviewed library official noted, it meets the financial challenge of providing funds for new technology that patrons want, and makes multiple formats available for the same title.
...For less than the price of a shipping charge from Amazon, readers are helping their libraries buy museum passes, screen films, put on lectures, and offer other programs. “So many bookstores are closed, but books don’t lose their appeal,’’ said Betty Molloy, president of Friends of the Thomas Crane Public Library, who launched the bookstore in Quincy’s library. ...

Staffed by volunteers and stocked with donations from patrons and townspeople, the store has so far been a successful venture, generating more than $6,500 in its first 14 weeks By contrast, the library’s twice-annual book sale nets about $6,500 a year, Molloy said.

The money pays for library programs such as film screenings, cooking demonstrations, and puppet shows.
The five-year-old shop has been so successful it has enabled the library to purchase iPads, Kindles, and Nooks that patrons borrow for a few hours or days. Being able to purchase digital readers with the proceeds from the sale of printed books “points to the fact that people like to do both,’’ said Leone Cole, Watertown’s library director. “It’s a challenge in these economic times to provide more formats for the same title.’’

That’s a challenge library bookstores are stepping in to meet. The $11,000 that the Friends of the Library Book Shop at the Milton Public Library cleared last year helped pay for Freegal, a digital music service allowing library-goers to download MP3s for free.

“We are trying to get people to realize they are in the shop buying a book that will ultimately help support their library,’’ said Connie Spiros, vice president of the Friends of the Milton Public Library. ...

"... if more [libraries] feel this is a way to meet the needs in the community, we will see more,’’ said Celeste Bruno, communication specialist for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

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