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Less is more

One of the biggest barriers to finding what you want is the sheer number of choices that exist. If you walk into a library, you see crowded ranks of spine-on books disappearing into infinity. It's a confusing and exhausting prospect for the browser who is not sure what they are looking for.

When Opening the Book introduced the observation methods of Paco Underhill into library practice, one of the most famous early observations was the member of staff who watched the A-Z fiction sequence in her library for two hours, noting every visitor and where they moved. She was astonished to discover that in two hours, not one single person got past the letter G. People looked in the early sequence and either chose a book or gave up and moved on. The lesson is that if you want to encourage readers to explore the whole range of books that you offer, you will need to make the choices more manageable. Focused readers who know what they want will go straight to the area they need but impulse choosers behave very differently.

What happens when you drive into an empty car park? You can't make up your mind where to park, often you park in one place and then change your mind - this side, no, over there - before settling. Compare that to driving into a busy car park - you see a space and you're straight in there, no messing. Less choice makes the choosing easy.

Manageable choices need not be narrow choices - it is crucial to offer a range, to vary the approach, to include books which are not well-known, the ones which need your help for readers to discover them. Keep the space prominent, keep it changing and watch how the books fly out.

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 Audience development

Related Resources

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