8/17/2007

Teen Furniture, Misleading Advertising & Getting Patron Input

In the August 16 edition of E-Product News from American Libraries, I was a bit frustrated to see the following as the lead item: Teens Love the New Big Cozy Books Booths.

As someone who has extensively researched teen space design as well as talked to thousands of teenagers about library furnishings and design concepts, I have yet to come across a teen (grades 7 - 12) who positively responds to Big Cozy Books (BCB) booths. Don’t get me wrong, BCB products can be a good option for children’s spaces, but not necessarily for teenagers (especially in their existing format). And…I definitely wouldn’t go as far as saying that teens “love” BCB booths. In reality, when I show teens these the booths side-by-side with other booth options, they hands-down choose the other options.

If teens were presented with hard, traditional, wooden library furniture vs. the BCB booths, then, yes, maybe they would choose BCB. Anything is better than traditional, hard, wooden library furniture. Even adults that I talk to in my focus groups would go for anything over the uncomfortable, traditional options.

When it comes to furniture and design selection and “true” likes and dislikes of library patrons, this is why I am so adamant with library staff (whether dealing with teens or adults) about working directly with patrons, showing them all the options, and getting their direct input.

Tip #1: Work with your patrons, show them all the options (and make the options comparable), give them a choice and a chance to give their direct input. Research ALL the options so you can provide a good sampling. And…don’t sway their decision by only showing them one option, options that aren’t comparable, or options that are solely based on library staff likes and dislikes. In this case, I think perhaps librarians love the BCB booths, not teenagers.

My concern about this advertisement for BCB is that they are misleading people. Have they actually done any market research that suggests that teens prefer BCB booths over more traditional or modern booths? I don’t see any teen references or quotes or data suggesting as much.

Tip #2: When looking at any ad, ask yourself the above questions first and then go out and ask your customers before making any purchases. Don’t make assumptions!

Let me know if you need assistance with finding options. There are certainly a lot out there. See the vendor list on my blog to get a good start.

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