Look, Play, Listen: Promoting Media Collections at LPL

With streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, do people still check out DVDs and CDs from libraries? At the Lawrence Public Library we’d argue YES! — but that’s not to say we haven’t noticed a downward trend over the past couple of years.
Despite the prevalence of streaming video services, we continue to see strong patron demand for new titles. The latest seasons of TV shows like Game of Thrones and popular movies like Hidden Figures accumulate holds lists into the triple digits. Just as with other collections, we order several copies to satisfy that demand, then the hype dies, and we’re left with several copies on the shelf.
These multiple copies sit alongside much older titles that no one’s checking out because they’re so focused on the new stuff. Our director has compared it to a dying star — as the collection approaches its end of life, it expands and takes up more space. Space we don’t have. Will we see the death of analog media collections? Perhaps not in my lifetime…but it’s probably coming.
This is where the new team that I’ve been asked to coordinate at LPL comes in. Look, Play, Listen is a cross departmental team that will focus on promoting the media collections to combat declining circulation.
Why cross-departmental? Our Readers’ Services team — the Book Squad — focuses on readers’ advisory and the fiction collection, and the Info Services team provides reference assistance and maintains the non-fiction collection. DVDs and CDs don’t quite fit into their areas of focus, and they don’t have the time to squeeze them in. We also don’t have the staff resources to create a whole new department at this time.

So on the Look, Play, Listen team we have two staff from Readers’ Services, two from Info Services, two from Materials Handling, one from our I.T. department, one from marketing, a collection development librarian, and our teen librarian. Here are a few of the things we are or have been working on:

Organizing DVDs Alphabetically
Because it’s a highly browsed collection, our DVD movies and TV shows have always been organized loosely under the first letter of the title and not in exact alphabetical order. We experimented with trying to maintain alphabetical order, thinking it would increase find-ability for browsers and staff pulling holds. What we didn’t anticipate was the time it took. Shelving returns took longer and the hours spent shelf-reading and reorganizing were wasted by browsers who almost immediately shuffled things around, even with signage saying we were trying to keep things alphabetized. So we dropped the effort, with the exception of our TV shows, because having all seasons of a show together does help.

Writing Reviews
The front page of our Bibliocommons catalog features sliders of recently reviewed items. Before our team was organized, weeks could go by without a new title being reviewed and added to the slider. To make sure we have fresh content up regularly, we organized a rotating calendar of staff reviews. Each team member writes a review for a DVD or CD every two weeks, and with 11 members on the team, we’ve got a new review on the slider almost every day of the week. We’ve definitely seen some holds on those reviewed items!

Staff Picks Display
We recently set up a new display of staff DVD picks, borrowing the handwritten shelf talkers I’ve seen at several book stores. Just like the bookstores, we featured movies of which we have at least three available copies. I love the personal touch the notes give to the recommendations. And the DVDs are flying off of it! Info Services staff passed along a comment from a patron who said she always has a hard time deciding what to watch next and thanked us for putting the display up.

Formed Based Watchers’/Listeners’ Advisory
Our next project will be putting together a form like our Readers’ Services team’s personalized reading suggestions request. Basically, patrons can fill out this form and we’ll send them a list of DVD or CD recommendations within 48 hours or so. Readers’ Services has had a good response to their form, so I’m looking forward to seeing how patrons respond to this one.

We just started the Look, Play, Listen effort in June, so it’s a little early to see how these things are affecting our circulation (especially since there’s always a slight uptick over the summer). Other things the team has discussed include “If you like…” posters for the endcaps of our media shelving, discussion groups, and a media themed podcast. I’m looking forward to seeing where else the team goes with this!

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