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Bookstores and libraries have a lot in common | Community

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Some people might assume that bookstores and libraries have a competitive relationship. After all, libraries are the quintessential leaders in sharing information in all formats, and bookstores are businesses whose main motivation is to make money. However, we have much more in common than differences.

Librarians and booksellers have a deep appreciation of the written form and believe that reading shapes attitudes and exposes the reader to a larger world. Reading does all of this, and greatly enriches our lives by providing relaxation, pleasure and entertainment.

In 2020, the Panorama project sought to broaden the understanding of how consumers interact with books and determine the role of public libraries in this engagement. They found that buyers bought an average of 2.8 books per month, and borrower-buyers (people who frequent libraries AND buy from the bookstore) bought an average of three books per month. Shoppers who hadn’t been to the library in the previous month bought just 2.6 books per month.

They found that 44% of book aficionados purchased a book from a bookstore that they first found at the library. In fact, libraries are great free marketing tools. Libraries, bookstores and online channels are mutually beneficial and their interactions can lead to cross-pollination. In total, 75% of project survey respondents have library cards and of these, 55% will buy a book rather than wait to get it from the library.

In total, 55% of shoppers say they have visited the library between 1 and 20 times in the past month. It seems books stay popular longer in libraries. In total, 75% of books loaned to libraries were backlist titles (books over a year old). Bookstores reported that 55-60% of sales came from top-list titles, compared to 25% of all library loans.

While Project Panorama investigated behaviors during the pandemic when book purchases soared, Library Journal reported in 2011 that “50% of all library users said they had purchased books by an author whom they had met at the library. Data from this survey was collected by Bowker PubTrack Consumer and identified a group they called Power Patrons. These customers read an average of 47 books per year compared to an overall average of 27 books per year. There’s no data to back up my theory, but I suspect the Power Patrons are the ones called borrower-buyers. Nothing will come between them and their books.

Library hours: 9 am to 8 pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; close on Sunday.

Tina Winstead is director of the Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. His column appears in the community section of the Daily Star every Tuesday. His columns can also be viewed online at www.thedailystar.com/community/library_corner.