Should libraries take a clue from Ikea?

Saw this interesting tweet today: RT @ikeafans: haha! RT @Leask: Best Salon comment ever: “getting lost in the IKEA? … Christ, it’s more efficient than the library.”

So, that makes me think two things – the person who made the original comment just goes to a really crap library or maybe libraries should take a clue from Ikea about organization.

I hear you moaning now – geez Chris, first libraries want to become more like bookstores, now you’re saying libraries should be more like Ikea.  You’re killing us!  Killing us!

Calm yourself and read on.  I’m not advocating anything…I’m just pondering…

Now, I get lost in Ikea.  It drives me nuts sometimes – as crisp and supposedly efficient as the store is, I struggle to find things sometimes.  But, let’s play devil’s advocate and chat about what Ikea has that libraries should consider:

Food and Drink
Those  Ikea cafes rock and I’ve actually scheduled lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea.  Libraries are doing this of course, but I’m just saying.  (Having food, coffee and cafes I mean, not having lunch and dinner appointments at Ikea…)

Child Care
Attention public: Children’s librarians are NOT babysitters.  Nothing is worse than having people plunk their screaming child into the kids section and then wander off to go look at movies or something.  But what if libraries offered child care for adult patrons who want to attend a class at the library or pop in to use the computer?  I’m sure some library out there must have at least tried some sort of similar service at one point.

Signs, Signs, Signs
No one reads signs.  How often has your library put up signs and they just don’t work?  But Ikea puts up pretty large centralized signs – if you want to know where something is, you have to read down the list of arrows that point in many directions, thus providing a sense of layout and where things are.

Bright Colors and Lights
The lighting in Ikea is pretty good.  It’s bright and shows off the vibrant colors of the store.  It’s not so harsh though that it’s headache inducing – it makes you want to hang out and not leave until you’ve purchased hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. 

Yellow Shirts
You always know where the Ikea staff is.  Bright yellow shirts make them visible like a brightly lit buoy.  You can pick those folks out right away.  Are library staff members always so easily visible?  Some library people don’t even wear nametags – even if it says “Librarian” or “Circulation Clerk” then you’ve got something to show folks you work there!

Here’s a great example of how physical space increases purchases.  In order to get through Ikea, you have to walk through some areas to get to others.  You want to get to kitchen stuff, you have to walk through living room stuff.  You go in for a mixing bowl or a wok, but then you see a pretty pillow or picture frame and well, you may as well pick that up too, right? Oh Ikea, you vixen!  Same is true for libraries.  If you can get people to walk past certain collections to get to other collections, maybe they’ll see something they like, pick up one or two more things and bring those circ stats up, up, up!

At Ikea, you don’t often rely on a staff member to help you get your couch out of the warehouse.  They are very willing to help don’t get me wrong, but their model isn’t set up to help you with every little thing.  Unless you need a forklift, you and a buddy find the aisle, pick up the couch flat pack, load it, buy it, get it to the car.  Libraries are doing this more and more – letting patrons get their own holds and self scheduling for meeting rooms and such (shameless Evanced plug – we’ve got a room reservation software that will help patrons do that). 

Ikea is pretty whimsical and they aren’t afraid to build a community that expresses their whimsy.  They aren’t rude or silly, they’re just kind of sweet and fun loving.  Most libraries use their website, Facebook, blog, and Twitter accounts to provide very dry library information.  We are good at getting fans, making websites, and all that, but it’s okay to express the fun side of the culture of your library.  Featuring staff members on your website or giving library users an idea of the “back stage” of the library can be fun and interactive.

Mostly, libraries are doing the Ikea thing already, but I couldn’t help but write down my thoughts on it after reading that tweet.  140 characters can sure conjure up a lot of thoughts!



One response to “Should libraries take a clue from Ikea?

  1. Also, you could set your library up like a maze. You have to go through every section before you check out. What a concept! Childcare is way more palatable than having children LOST every 1/2 hour and having to hunt down clueless parents.

    I’m now thinking of IKEA ice cream cones – just $1.00 buys happiness.

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