Advice to libraries thinking of introducing book baskets

Hand drawn illustration of a green shopping basket with handleEvery librarian has watched perspiring students attempt to collect and carry teetering piles of books about the library, occasionally overreaching for a book just too far away and sending the tower of intended reading calamitously tumbling down.  Offering baskets and/or trolley baskets and trolleys for clients to safely and comfortably collect and carry books is a relatively inexpensive way to offer clients a safe and effective method for getting their books out of the library (or at least to where you sell the book bags).

We introduced book baskets a few years ago and were asked recently for advice for another library considering introducing a similar service.  Here is our list of most important considerations if you are thinking of doing similar.

  • Have one large stack of baskets placed obviously in an area near the library entrance where clients all have to pass it but after they naturally begin to slow down and look around them (they might rush past baskets immediately inside the entrance, although we have not tested this).  
  • Scatter stacks across the building (no one wants to go all the way to the entrance to get a basket).  Users will look for the baskets in their immediate area.
  • Promote the new service so clients realise the baskets are for them to carry their books around: ”shopping” for books is an alien concept for many people.
  • Label basket stacks clearly.  Again, don’t expect clients to notice the baskets or associate them with carrying books.
  • Have stands for basket stacks – it makes the stack more stable and encourages neat storage.
  • Baskets will be returned to the stack nearest the exit (probably the main entrance).  If you have stacks anywhere else, put a system in place to ensure baskets are distributed to these other stacks regularly or they will often run out.
  • When positioning basket stacks, check they will not pose a trip hazard if it is reduced to just the basket stand or the stand and a single basket.
  • Consider including some signage encouraging those with mobility issues (permanent or temporary) to contact library staff for assistance.  We have set aside three sprites (three wheeled upright trolleys) that may be used on request by any with difficulty lifting for any reason (injury, disability, etc.) but a good alternative we will be seriously considering when we come to replace our existing basket stock would be buy wheeled baskets with telescopic handles, offering all clients a choice between carrying and wheeling their baskets.

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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