Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Welcome to the ... Mallbrary?

One of the library branches in my sister's area received funding for an extensive remodeling project, and so it has been closed since last spring for renovations.  In order to keep the library open during the renovation period, they have opened a temporary location in a storefront in the local mall.  It functions like a mini version of the library, complete with a window display, a moderate selection of books, and a checkout station where the cash register would be.

They even have a small kid's section with a number of books and some computers, and I guess they still do a lot of children's programming.  They had a big summer reading program, and they do story times that take place in the mall, including a Pajama Tale story time that my sister was thinking of taking her little guy to.  One of the stores in the mall lets them use an open space area on the upper level for their story times and other events.  A quick look at their calendar of events shows that most events are youth services programming: bilingual story times, pajama story times, a young adult book club, and a preschool story time.  

I thought it was an interesting idea to open a temporary location in the mall, and it definitely has its advantages.  In terms of reaching a wider audience, surely you would get more foot traffic being in the middle of a mall.  You would definitely be able to reach out to a larger portion of the population that might not otherwise specifically visit the library.  In that sense, it is a great opportunity for community outreach and advertising the services of the library.  Since their events take place in an open space on the upper level, parents/caregivers walking by could see and be able to join in on a story time or other event with their child.  Still, it is pretty strange to read on an events calendar that a story time will take place "on the upper level near Kevin Jewelers"!

                                                  Photo credit: Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun


  1. Wow--I think that is awesome and as you said, I think that is great exposure to the library and programs they offer. In Southeast Missouri, they moved the library temporarily to an out of the way strip mall while they were renovating. While located on a busy intersection, the entrance was difficult to find. I am not sure that people even knew they were there.

  2. One of our local libraries has been located in a mall for the past 10 years or so, recently moving from an upstairs spot to a more visible (and more spacious) lower level spot. It is not perfect, but I think that with the way so many communities have splintered through the years, the idea of a community library in and of itself (i.e. its own building) is a bit anachronistic. That being said, when my wife and I visited New York recently, we picked a hotel largely because of its proximity to the New York Public Library. You can't beat a classic.

  3. I think what you're drawing attention to here is a library marketer's dream: open a branch where a lot of people go, free parking, no major construction expenses, a natural draw for teens and tweens looking for something to do, and your patrons would potentially be customers at other stores in the mall. Wow! Considering all the plusses that this arrangement makes, what might be some drawbacks? Well, if the mall isn't in a good position economically (i.e.: many vacant store fronts), does the library branch become a draw for people or do they still stay away? How difficult might it be to have a secure space, one that gives the library control over the flow of visitors and books/resources? Do you face any challenges in scheduling special programs when the mall is busy or empty? No answers here, but I'd be curious to see if there is a difference in the kinds of patrons you would get in this location compared to the free standing location. It sounds like it could really work well on a more permanent basis too.