Should Book Sellers Enter the School Library Market by: Publisher Weekly
Thursday, May 14, 2015
For most independent bookstores, selling to schools means educator discounts, teacher nights, and book fairs. As a result, few independents target school libraries. But at last fall’s regional trade shows, 27-year-old Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop in LaVerne, Calif., and Turtleback Books in St. Louis, Mo., which was recently reintroduced as a division of 45-year-old prebinder San Val, each made the case that indies could and should offer a broader range of educational services aimed directly at school librarians.
A worker checks book quality at Mrs. Nelson's bindery.
“I think this is an untapped opportunity for bookstores,” said Richard Buthod, sales manager for Turtleback. He sees increased potential for prebound titles and class sets with the rollout of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. According to Erin Clyburn, director of collection development at Turtleback, “A lot of stores have the impression that [selling to school libraries] is difficult. Actually it’s easy. We offer free marketing materials and sales tools.” Turtleback provides sell sheets for Common Core titles and children’s classics for grades k–12, and has a list of nearly 8,000 prebound books.
In a handout at the regionals store representatives attended (and they attended nearly all of them), Patrick Nelson, general manager of Mrs. Nelson’s Library Services division, described the problem that his store faced before it created a separate library division in 2005. The store had become frustrated by schools taking the cash they earned from their book fairs and using it to purchase prebound books from Follett. “As an indie bookstore, you have built a strong, loyal community following. Librarians love shopping at your store and depend on your expertise. But despite their loyalty, these customers shop with large, national book vendors in order to get services you can’t provide,” he wrote. To make Mrs. Nelson’s even more competitive, in 2009 it bought a local bindery. Last summer it began growing its library business by offering other independent bookstores the same just-in-time prebinding, cataloging and processing, and textbook reconditioning services that it provides to its local school libraries.
While recently opened stores haven’t been responsive...
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