Monday, December 11, 2006

Week 15, Case Studies: One City, One Book and Mega Bookstores

One City, One Book
What else can I say about this idea except brilliant! Whether in the context of a community-wide program or of a middle and high school, being able to share a common reading experience provides a space for conversation and connection similar to book clubs. By freeing the participants from the pressure of reading as an assignment, again like book clubs, the one book campaign allows everyone to relate to the literature as they want to and levels the literary playing field. Like one student said in Debby Van Dyke’s article: “It didn’t matter who was smart or who was athletic; we all were at the same level”. It alleviates the stress of trying to do well or trying to say things students think are what the teacher wants to hear; it leaves the individual with only their free-flowing thoughts, and I imagine boosts students confidence in themselves as intellectuals by welcoming every and all unbridled thoughts on the book. With all the organization for the event happening behind the scenes, all the people are free to enjoy the benefits of having a well-coordinated, participation-friendly opportunity at their fingertips without contributing to the underlying planning. Personally, I think ensuring everyone has been assigned to a discussion group and access to any supporting materials they need is critical. This support network encourages those people likely to give up on reading the easiest to keep reading through a collective sense of community. I was thinking of joining a book club for this very reason: to find an open, non-academically pressured space to, quite simply, think about and discuss things I’ve read without trying to write them up in a paper or follow a rigid scholarly framework for interpretation. Just the book, my ideas, and a congenial forum.

Libraries v. Bookstores
As I was reading a few of these articles, it struck me that the underlying difference of objectives between libraries and bookstores is what causes the two to display their materials so differently. The purpose of the bookstore is to provide a consumer friendly space to sell! sell! sell! only the most recent releases and bestsellers. The library on the other hand, has no ulterior commercial motive. Libraries preserve materials, and so they need to use the decimal system to standardize collection organization throughout all libraries, not just one particular retail outlet. This is another significant difference. While bookstores may share the same corporate name, each individual store falls under that branch’s management without regards to a scheme that must transcend physical space. The best libraries can do to compete with these mega stores is to put lots of creative energy into temporary displays, mimicking the high priority tables of the mega stores or other highlight sections consumers are used to already. Since we live in a consumer economy, where individuals are conditioned to expect quick, efficient access to the goods they want immediately, bookstores cater to these instant satisfaction demands. Libraries, however, are not commercial zones and so they stand out as even more counter-intuitive to use compared to the ultimate consumer-friendly bookstores. Overall, when it comes to books, people want tables set out with items they might like because most people will find something they do in fact like there. People want books to be organized under unofficial popular section listings like ‘fiction’ or ‘drama’ so they can browse. If libraries want to keep up with the rising tide of mega store commercialism, we need to borrow some of their more effective marketing gimmicks to offer users as much of the convenience they know and expect from being in these comfortable reading areas with ambient lighting that are nearly as prevalent as Starbucks. Rotating, temporary displays provided easier browsing with catchy, popular titles or new releases is just a beginning.


At 12:23 PM, Blogger Eric Bartell said...

re: "The library on the other hand, has no ulterior commercial motive."

I'm not so sure about this. Librarians have more and more taken on a marketing/business type model to run their institutions. Libraries make appeals/announcements to the public about their worth and role in the community, which is where most probably get the bulk of their funding from. I think the difference is that librarians may have more than just a commercial motive in running their institutions. (Although, I guess, some may argue that a big bookstore may have more than money on their minds).

At 2:13 PM, Blogger lwinkle said...

Sorry: This was suppose to be in my reading response web log, but thanks for commenting!
I guess I meant that libraries have more altruistic missions in terms of their contributions to society, since those contributions are not primarily economic, like the bookstore. It's arguable that a bookstore has other motives, but by its very nature as a business, the bookstore is an entirely separate model from the library.


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