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Inside Practically Paradise

So why should I spend my library funds at Barnes & Noble anyway?

Since time was flying by, I had to get back to business and ask the questions I’d come with. Is it true Barnes & Noble asks publishers to change their covers? Answer: yes, sometimes. 

Reason? B&N truly believes they’ll sell more books if some covers are changed. For example, they know how to judge whether a customer can read the title or author’s name from a distance or whether the background causes the words to blend in. I was given several specific examples of titles where the reprint had different covers and the books suddenly gained in popularity. Robbie suggested that some publishers hadn’t invested that much creativity in their cover art, but we agreed to disagree on whose decision it was artistically. 

How about selling prime space? Answer: each store has some display space which is required marketing from the corporate office and some space which is available for local decisions. Some end caps may be assigned certain products but the funds go into some complicated marketing scheme which flew over my head by that point in the day. I’m sorry, readers, but I was starting to get tired. If you understand this process, please chime in and explain it to me again.

What about the lack of children’s nonfiction titles? Answer: school libraries are the best market and source for series nonfiction titles. Bookstores are sometimes prevented from stocking and ordering series nonfiction by the publisher rules, and pricing discounts. If the store can’t get enough of a discount, they could end up losing money when customers like teachers use their free personal B & N educator discount card. Robbie had actually looked up several titles I suggested to explain why they were on the short-run list and weren’t available for the store to order. 

He did agree that school libraries purchase the most in children’s nonfiction and their budget needs are increasing to meet curricula demands. Notice I said our needs are increasing, not our budgets. Robbie mentioned that big bookstores have corporate buyers who just might not have been interested that day in the nonfiction titles the publishers were offering. Hmm… I wonder if it would help for more of our parents to request these?

On to my next question, "Why should school and public libraries go to Barnes & Noble to spend their funds?" Answer: Sometimes librarians need to look at the book and hold it in their hands. (I noted the whole Lowrider experience – shudder.) Also, going to the bookstore gives librarians the chance to chat with booksellers about titles. Out of the many employees working in his store, Robbie was sure someone there would have read a title the librarian was questioning. 

Barnes & Noble helps with determining age-level appropriateness simply by locating their teen fiction outside of the children’s book section. A title could be in both places, but if it was only in the Teen Fiction section it probably had a teenage protagonist or a teen situation which might cause the librarian to need to read the title for her(him)self. 

Robbie mentioned that every B & N carries lots of titles on their shelf and maintains a huge database of in print titles in the U.S. By the way, did you know that B & N is strictly a domestic company? 

Did you know that the next time you compulsively reorder and straighten their bookshelves that all over-sized titles are specifically placed on the top right shelf of each section? Don’t go trying to cram them in sideways!

Did you know that Barnes & Noble carries summer bridge materials – lots of supplemental educational titles and activity books to help the struggling learner maintain their skills during the long summer break? These are meant for parents to work with their children. 

Barnes & Noble does offer discounts – not at wholesale rates – but they can often get a class set of titles to you faster than many other companies due to their warehouse functions. 

Which brought us full-circle to the number one reason why we should shop at our local big bookstore – B & N – the Community Relations Manager. The CRM’s job is to work with schools and libraries in the area. For the particular store I was in, the area could easily contain 10 counties. 

Part of the CRM’s job is to find the best price and make the best deal for our money. Repeat customers and strong relationships are important to the CRM. 

Sometimes the CRM will deliver titles to a school. The CRM is also in charge of events and will partner with schools to help bring authors to them. Authors can even put in requests to visit specific stores. 

The CRM will help plan and implement a B & N Book Fair for the school. When the book fair occurs, customers simple present slips of paper indicating they are there to support the school, or sometimes if they forget, they can simply tell the clerk. That way a portion of their sales goes back to the school without any unpacking, packing, decorating, etc. 

Each school works with the CRM to create in-store events to show off the school. Some schools have artwork displayed in the front windows. Others have had foreign language classes presenting books they wrote, choirs, jazz ensembles, readings, talent shows, comedians, cheerleaders, and drama presentations. Hmm… Nashville librarians, we have a new director of schools arriving, perhaps someone needs to schedule a school event with Robbie. 

Another important part of the CRM’s job is to help the libraries with their paperwork and purchase orders. The CRM needs to be able to correctly recognize county vs school vs district P.O.’s and ensure they are completed accurately. There are times when I need a second set of eyes to look at my orders. I learned in graduate school the quickest way to get fired is to mess up the budget.

Last question, "How do you feel about small orders for school libraries?" Answer: every order is important. Robbie agreed that it was satisfying to help the librarian who spent only $100 out of their own pocket knowing she/he didn’t have a budget. He told me not to feel badly about the small orders I spend in local stores, but encouraged me to allow him to help search for the best deals. 

Well, readers, what do you think? Do you feel like you just spent MANY hours with me on a tour of the local big bookstore? I know I’m worn out and I’m off to sleep. I need to rise early and start reading some of those titles I went back to get this weekend.


  1. The idea of moving our Book Fair to B&N was floated but we felt that 1. having it in school was a powerful statement and 2. too few people would come if they had to go to the B&N (our students come from a wide catchment area).

    Loved your tour and I did learn a lot about B&N; I’ll stick with my local independent for my personal reading, but B&N is one of the places I turn when ordering those “need it now” items for school.

  2. ANN NORED says:

    We are going to have a Barnes & Noble Book Fair at our school (Wilson Central in Lebanon) next week. Leslie Walker is the CRM at the Murfreesboro Barnes & Noble, and she is the one I work with on my B & N book orders (I live in Murfreesboro.) I also decided that many students would not go to a Barnes & Noble, but they would be more likely to attend a book fair in the library. I don’t think B & N has done book fairs in the schools in this area, so we are the guinea pigs. I will let you know how it turns out! Leslie is great to work with!

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