Beyond Borders

Thoughts on a trip to Borders…

Their mission statement: ‘To be the best-loved provider of books, music, films, and other entertainment and informational products and services.’ (from their website

Things I liked:
Arrangement of shelves and seating in fiction section
Colourful children’s section including round sofa area for sharing stories

Things I disliked:
Too much of the store taken up with non-book items such as Paperchase outlet, calendars, CDs and board games
No map – the fiction section was obvious but it was difficult to find areas in the non fiction
Scifi and fantasy books lumped together and just labelled scifi (at least label them scifi and fantasy!)
Poor range of stock in non fiction eg just 2 books on Rome and half a shelf of very basic genealogy books
Staff did not seem particularly interested in what they were doing or aware of the customers

I’ve been to our new Borders store a couple of times now and been very disappointed twice. The bookselling scene in our city is dominated by Waterstones and although I always enjoy visiting Waterstones I was looking forward to some competition and some new book promotion ideas to steal! I don’t believe libraries and bookshops should be the same, they each have their own role to play in the reading experience, but I do think that libraries can often learn from their commercial cousins especially when it comes to stock layout, promotion and service delivery. For a large store, the Borders I visited had a very limited range of non fiction stock, probably due to the amount of floor space devoted to selling cards, calendars and CDs etc. Planning a trip to Rome next month, I visted Waterstones earlier in the week and found a shelf full of books covering almost all of the main travel book series. At Borders I found 2 books, both aimed at the independent traveller. Genealogy rarely seems to be covered well beyond the basic level in mainstream bookshops but Borders had the poorest section I have seen outside of a supermarket book section!

My library lesson – many of the elements we are being encouraged to include in our libraries were things I disliked about Borders. I found it frustrating that there are several large music/film stores in the city but Borders still tries to compete with them at the expense of the one thing I had gone there for – books. We also have plenty of stores selling calendars, cards and similar products. The atmosphere did not make me want to stay and browse and the staff did not encourage me to approach them (mostly because they were complaining loudly about being open til 10pm!). I hope that libraries don’t go the same way, people frustrated because they can’t find the books they want or the staff interaction they need because we are too busy generating income with DVD rentals and deleting librarian posts to make short term savings for the council.

Can we go beyond Borders and create a fantastic library service instead?!


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