A week or so ago I read an article in the New York Times, “Target Can Make Sleepy Titles Into Best Sellers”, that piqued my curiosity about how this popular store has become an unlikely clearinghouse for moving books.

The article noted this about the shelving at Target:

Virtually every book at Target is shelved face out. Books in the book club and Breakout program are set apart on so-called endcaps — narrower shelves that stand at the front or end of aisles — with specially designed signs.

Since I had tried to do a good obit of face out shelving in my library remix from this past spring, I decided I needed to see this for myself—I never even realized that Target had a book section!

I ventured over to our new SuperTarget in Canton to behold this shelving.  After searching around, I was surprised to find the book section in the back of the store (I plan to check out the one in neighboring Alpharetta this weekend to see where their book section is located).   What I found was a simple but mesmerizing feast for the eyes—row after row after attractive book covers begging to be browsed and bought!

What struck me was the effective simplicity of the shelving—there was nothing fancy about it, yet the design makes it incredibly easy to browse.  It is visually clean and is designed to draw your attention to the book cover.  While I know we admonish our patrons to “not judge the book by its cover”, we all do it—the art and politics of book covers will be a post for a later time!

I began wondering where could I get this type of shelving for my library—how perfect would this be for displaying “new arrivals” or the Peach Book Award nominees?  I could see this being useful for magazine displays as well.  This kind of shelving would be perfect for encouraging browsing of popular titles or titles to be showcased.  My fellow media specialist Roxanne and I are now on a mission to find something comparable as soon as possible to put into The Unquiet Library.  We are going to call Target corporate headquarters next week to see if they will share their vendor with us who manufactures these shelves; if not, we’ll punt and revisit the usual suspects in library furniture.

In the meantime, I am going to visit a few other Target stores to see if the displays are comparable from store to store.  I am also thinking about visiting other unlikely spots, such as Wal-Mart or grocery stores, that sell books and see how their shelving/arrangements stack up (no pun intended).

One other aspect of the article that struck me was how Target is effective at promoting new and unknown authors:

Target “can sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a book that is virtually unknown in the rest of the marketplace,” said Jacqueline Updike, director of adult sales at Random House, one of the world’s largest publishers.

By assembling a collection of books by unheralded authors, Target behaves more like an independent bookstore than like a mere retailer of mainstream must-haves (although, of course, Target sells its share of best-seller list regulars, like James Patterson and Janet Evanovich).

“Target says every month, ‘Here are some new titles we’re bringing to you, and you can trust us, even if you haven’t heard of them,’ ” said Patrick Nolan, director of trade paperback sales for Penguin Group USA. “That is a very different approach.”

While some jobbers like Junior Library Guild do something along these lines, I’m wondering how might school libraries go about selecting these kinds of titles from the YA lit world.    I know many YA authors and librarians are wonderful about blogging their recommendations for newbie authors on the YA lit scene, but I am wondering where else we might look to find hidden jewels.  If you have suggestions out there, please post them here!

What other non-mainstream or unorthodox places might we look to borrow book marketing and promotion strategies?

9 thoughts on “Book Lurking at Target

  1. Buffy, I was just at Target today. I’ve bought many books there for myself. The outfacing shelving is really effective.

    A cheap way to imitate the effect is to use “rain gutters” from the local home improvement store (I think we paid $2.50 for a 6 ft length – the gutter holders were the most expensive part). I learned about this from Jim Trelease and have installed “gutter shelving” on almost every bare wall in each of our media centers.

    We change out the displays frequently with lots of 3D, eyecatching bling. Check out our album.



    BTW. I love your blog!


  2. I know that whenever I displayed books on special glass shelves in our old elementary library – grouped by genre or author, usually with complementary toys or artifacts – they were highly sought after. It works in supermarkets and chain stores, so why not in libraries?


  3. Hey Buffy years ago we did a reading initiative schoolwide. It was primarily focused on classroom teachers, but because it was schoolwide and I wanted to support teachers, I participated too. Lots of two hour afterschool workshops for a whole entire school year (grad credit provided.) One of the trainers told teachers to prominently display books face out in the classroom wherever space was available. She showed the placing of gutters along the wall under boards and wherever there was horizontal space available to face out display books. I went back to the library, and began turning books face out on EVERY shelf that had empty space. I kid you not when I say books began flying off the shelf. So fast in fact, I made anew rule–if you take a faced out book, please select a new one for its place. Giving books some face out time practically guarantees some circulation. Thanks for sharing the pictures. GReat post too!


  4. Kathy, I bow to you—you are the queen of displays! Wow—how eye catching!

    Thank you for the gutter idea—I don’t have much empty wall space, but I think we could attach the gutters to front of our circ desk, and maybe small lengths to the big concrete columns—that would be WAY cool! I am going to measure tomorrow!!! LOVE, LOVE this idea!

    What did you use to attach the gutters to the wall?

    Thank you so much for your help and for reading my blog! 🙂



  5. Cathy, that is AWESOME! In the two months after I redid the fiction collection, I saw a jump in circulation, too because the covers were out. Isn’t it amazing what a subtle change can make? I wonder why more companies who make library shelving (for all libraries) don’t offer more options along these lines? I know you can buy the attachments to the end panels, but still..it would nice to have more shelving selections.

    I am going to definitely try Kathy’s gutter idea—I have six huge concrete columns that could be prime real estate for smaller displays, and then maybe we could attach them to the front of our circ desk if I can’t get the Target style shelving.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with this kind of arrangement—you have me even more jazzed about this project!

    You rock! Thanks so much!

    Buffy 🙂


  6. Diane—I am both blessed and cursed with TONS of windows in the library…we regularly put them on display in the windows, but I have to remind the students that YES, they can check them out–for whatever reason, sometimes our teens think they can’t take them out of the window! They seem to be overcoming this misperception, but I’m like you—I love taking advantage of that feature to do special displays or feature authors/books/topics.

    Thank you for sharing! Your pearls of wisdom are always appreciated!

    Buffy 🙂


  7. Hey Buffy – LOVE this idea! I have all my shelves against the wall, leaving little space, but am currently in the process of displaying many books using small black easels, along with 4 slatwalls for books and acrylic magazine holders. I’m hoping to see a difference in circulation and fewer students just wandering around because they are browsers and rows of spines aren’t exactly inviting. Keep us posted on this venture – I’d love to see what you come up with! (And one day I’ll make it over there!:)


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