I just read this article on the BBC news site that some county libraries in the UK will soon be putting insert advertisements into library books.
The article quotes Mark Jackson, of Howse Jackson Marketing, who says: “Library inserts are innovative, unique and offer audience segments which can be traditionally hard to reach.”
Although this may be so, I wonder if these inserts will really work for marketers and if the library is really going to be fully compensated for the amount of time it takes for staff to put the inserts into the books and to remove the inserts too. Will they end up like junk mail or those pieces of paper people leave on car windshields? It is sounding like that to me, but I could be wrong and only time will tell.
As a person working in a library, my concern is that this seems to go against customer service principles. It will hold up lines at the circulation (borrower services) desks when the library is busy. What about books that are being checked-out using self-checkout machines? I guess I must presume that the libraries incorporating this probably don’t use self-checkout machines and probably are closed stacks libraries as most libraries are in the UK.
One issue for me with this practice is the time staff would have to spend in dealing with complaints over advertisements in the books. In the beginning there would be many complaints, but as time moves ahead there would be less complaining done. Instead I think complaints would later become more focused around specific advertisements which could be seen as offensive. This will take up the time of staff at the information services/reference desk and people may end up stuck in longer lines when the library is busy. How much control would libraries have over which advertisements to put in books – would they have much choice? I wonder if some companies would say if you put in my advert I’ll give you more than the other advert pays. This might affect which advert gets placed in a book. Also, people hold libraries in a high level of esteem and trust, so if we put adverts in books they may trust that the library has agreed to put the advert in the book so there may be some truth to the advert or that it may be a better company to do business with than another similar company.
Finally, what about the environment? 3m inserts available per month would mean a lot of trees being cut down and a lot of ink being used.
Are these adverts in books really worth it for libraries? Maybe the money the library makes from the adverts will increase funding to improve the collection and programs. I have an inkling that it may instead require more staff be hired to replace inserts. Did anyone ever think that this could add to repetitive strain injuries in libraries? I really hope that it doesn’t, but suspect that it might. I guess only time will tell. I think this is definitely something to watch and wonder if and when it will be picked up on this side of the ocean.