In addition to the traditional “checkout” function, it is likely that your library has had discussions about whether or not you should offer patrons the option to purchase library materials. I’d like to offer a few thoughts on that topic.
Several notable surveys have been done recently that strongly indicate that the patrons that borrow are the same ones that buy. In fact, an August 2011 survey by Library Journal found that 25-40% of library users purchase books they have previously borrowed from the library! This statistic alone would seem to support the idea that libraries should offer an integrated purchase feature. But there’s more!
Let’s talk a bit about an emerging trend called “ebay showroom” purchasing or “showrooming” for short. First, here are some stats. Library users clearly use the library as a “discovery service” to inform future purchases. Over half of library users surveyed, and nearly two-thirds of “power users” surveyed purchase books from an author whose works they previously borrowed from the library. And about a third of surveyed users relied on the library to discover new writers and try out new genres.
This behavior has a corollary on the retail side. The Urban Dictionary has recently added terms around “showrooming” that indicate a behavior of millennials who use a physical location—store, library, etc—simply to handle, feel and preview an item—before going online to buy it at a lower price. This trend has significant implications for retailers—as well as libraries. In fact, Best Buy recently retro-fitted a number of their stores to accommodate online buying coupled with in-store pickup.
This notion of “showrooming” isn’t going away any time soon—in fact, it’s getting more pronounced every day. These user behavior patterns provide compelling evidence that libraries should offer purchase options to their patrons. There appears to be significant unmet demand for online purchase solutions embedded directly within the ILS discovery platform.
In the coming months, we’ll be providing additional insight into user behavior to help you determine how to address your specific situations and communities. We want to be a responsible partner of yours, providing data, ideas, and functionality, in order to let you decide how you’ll apply it!