In New Jersey, the Camden County Library System did just that. In November, they opened Shelf Life, a decidedly non-traditional branch of the library at the Echelon Mall in Voorhees. They managed to get the space donated by the company that manages the mall and created a hip place for patrons to visit with computers to check e-mail, beanbag chairs for the kids no stacks. The space is open, light, and full of chairs, so it’s an excellent place to escape the craziness of the mall. They’ve made the most of their 3,000 s.f. space and stock mostly popular books, new non-fiction, DVDs and children’s books. Instead of blowing money at the local chain bookstore in the mall, shoppers can browse the library’s collection and sit down and check their e-mail. It’s a great way to attract patrons who may not normally use their local library. Here’s a quote from the Branch Manager in an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“You meet a different clientele here… It’s people that wouldn’t come to the regular library. And then once they’re here, we tell them all about the other services we offer.”

This is an absolutely brilliant idea! Rather than looking for ways to draw non-traditional users into a traditional library space, the library is literally going where the patrons are. Just about everyone visits their local mall in the course of a year, so it’s the perfect location for a community institution that seeks to reach everyone. By putting the library in the mall, you knock down another barrier to people using the library. It’s right there!

How easy is it to get to your library? Is it in an area where there is a lot of parking or is parking sometimes a problem? Is it close to stores that most people go to or do they have to make a special trip to visit the library? Is it close to public transportation for people who don’t have a car? A library that is not conveniently located is just putting up another barrier to potential patrons. For some people, if they can find a reason not to go, they won’t. We need to give them more reasons to visit and fewer reasons not to. Having a library in a popular shopping center is the easiest you can make access to the library without literally parking yourself outside their house.

[From Blake at LISNews]