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?