Every once in a while I am reminded that people do matter in business. In this age of electronic ordering, cost savings, and a single-minded focus on the bottom line, real people can get lost in the shuffle. I’m happy to report that our local library has revived my faith in people.
This past year the Charlotte Library got a new director, Margaret. Margaret has been a customer of our store pretty much since we opened. I remember when she was a volunteer at the library and have seen work her way up to being the director. When our store was across the street from the library, they would order books. Not a ton of books, but a few a week. They would often walk over and grab a book two they had forgotten to order. They had a budget to adhere to and would do the bulk of their purchasing with a jobber. I totally understand that as the budget has to be publicly defended at the annual Town Meeting.
This year we have a seen a huge increase in the number of books the library buys from us. In fact we fulfill almost all of the library book orders. Every week we get an email from Margaret or the Cheryl, the children’s librarian, with a book list. As much as I love getting these emails, what I love best is that all of the ISBNs are included. Some weeks we order up to 30 books for the library. We provide a small town service for the library, we deliver the book orders when they arrive.
I asked Margaret why we’ve been getting so many orders. She explained that while they might save a little more with a library jobber, they decided to shop local. Plus, they decided that dealing with real people might be ultimately more cost-effective because mistakes are more easily remedied and there is a chance at a real conversation about books when they call us.
Obviously, I have loved the library orders for the income they generate, but I also love knowing what my library is ordering for the folks in town. This gives me a real heads up as to what might sell well at the store. I like knowing that my neighbors, some of whom might not be bookstore patrons, are reading books from my store. I feel more invested in my town because of the library orders.
And, they love getting our old galleys, so really, what’s not to love?