December is a traditionally slow month for circulation in our library. Though the library itself is usually packed with patrons on their school breaks attending our annual Stuffed Animal Sleepover and Winter Crafts programs, something about the combination of visiting relatives bringing children to the library and the lack of projects and homework over the break make our circulation dip. I recently pulled our monthly print book circulation for the past five years for a project I’m working on and was surprised to note that each year; December is our lowest-circulating month. The drop from November to December is not drastic, but it is significant, and it remains consistent no matter the weather, break schedule, or staffing of the children’s library.
With nowhere to go but up, this December we decided to play with different types of displays in an effort to see if we can raise circulation. Was December circulation destined to remain lower than the rest of the year?
Our motto was “Give the people what they want.” Instead of putting new books on display, we put popular books on display. We brought all the extra copies of older Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the original Percy Jackson series up from their homes in storage. We turned display space traditionally reserved for a broad array of holiday-themed books into a display of Dora, Daniel Tiger, and classic animated Holiday DVDs. Our themed displays, which traditionally circulate well (except in December!) came down in favor of “We Love Wimpy!” “We Love Harry!” and “We Love Percy!” displays centered on, respectively Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter, plus close read-alikes that we knew kids would take out. Our Non-Fiction display area became home to a wide variety of fact-based books, like Guinness World Records and This or That?
The results were encouraging. While circulation didn’t climb to the heights of summer reading, it did outstrip ever December for the past five years! Th experiment raised interesting questions. Are we doing our patrons a disservice if we only highlight new, well-reviewed books by authors they may not know? Is it elitist to keep books like Wimpy Kid off display because you know children will ask for them anyway? What matters more – keeping circulation high or giving the people what they want?
January is witnessing a transition back to our traiditonal types of displays, which truly drive circulation during other months of the year. But I wonder if we should be mixing more populist displays in with our regular displays on a monthly basis. How do you decide what goes on display in your library?