When: Thursday, Jan 31 | 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Location: MTCC 206AB

Days: Thursday. Event Types: Session. Sectors: Public Libraries. Subjects: Library Buildings and Space, Public Service, and User Experience.


If libraries are truly powered by the people, libraries cannot ignore some of the most ubiquitous and influential elements that shape people’s expectations of libraries: retail experiences.

While it can be seen as slightly profane to suggest that the library is a retail space, an entire science of retail exists that libraries ignore to their detriment. Ultimately, looking to retail science to enhance library service and increase library use is inspired by the necessity that libraries respond to the community expectations emerging around them. In no small part, these community expectations are created and multiplied by retail scientists in malls and chain stores across North America and in virtual environments powered by artificial intelligence. As such, it is more important than ever that libraries understand the expectations library users have when they enter the library’s physical or virtual spaces, having just had resonating experiences at their favorite coffee shop, home décor seller, or online retailer. Today’s increasingly competitive information and knowledge landscape are compelling reasons for libraries to integrate expert retail lessons and techniques into their service, space, and program design.

Recent trends in improving the broader patron experience in libraries, rather than focusing on smaller transactional elements of library service, point to a recognition that libraries can benefit from the expertise of retail consultants and the experience of highly successful retail chains and merchandisers who provide outstanding customer experiences that keep people coming back for more. This session will take participants on a journey, filled with questions, discoveries, and highly practical advice, about applying retail lessons in the library environment, without abandoning the goals and interests libraries share as free, open, and accessible spaces welcome to all.

Using a combination of lecture and hands-on activities, the session’s goals are:

• to inform colleagues and library leaders about trends in retail science and how they can inform library practice to improve patron experience
• to provide and brainstorm concrete, low cost ways to improve patron experience in library environments of diverse shapes and sizes

Key content elements will include:

• introduction of significant theory and theoreticians in retail science
• open and frank discussion about the value these theories play in the current practice of libraries and the impact they may have on patron and staff perceptions of libraries
• learnings from Calgary Public Library’s efforts to gauge and improve patron experience, from traditional approaches to more cutting edge initiatives informed by the practice of retail experts and highly successful retail chains
• concrete proposals for changing library culture and integrating retail lessons into daily practice (merchandising and space design, training and quality control, simple behavioral changes among team members that make positive impacts to patron experience, mustering employee engagement, using artificial intelligence to improve library service)