PLA: The Idea Store

Speakers: Sergio Dogliani, Principal Idea Store Manager, Idea Store, London and Roger Adams, Principal, Bisset Adams Marketing, London. Ginnie Cooper (Chief Librarian, DC Public Library) and Martin Gomez (Urban Libraries Council) asked questions to extend the conversation about the Idea Store.

The Idea Store is a new model for libraries and community learning centers. It is retail inspired and all outlets (at this time) are locaed in London’s East End (Tower Hamlets), one of the poorest and economically deprived areas. Tower Hamlets is one of 33 “municipalities” in London and has over 215,000 residents. 25% of the service area population is unemployed.

In 1998, only 20% of the population used the library, as of today, it is now up to 55%! At that time, they had 12 libraries… with the evolution of the Idea Store (tagline is Libraries, Learning, Information), those 12 outlets will be closed and 7 new ones (or refurbished ones) will be opened. So far, there are 4 Idea Stores in place.

The core idea is that the Idea Store is a place for Lifelong Learning and that will be accomplished by Empowering, Enriching, and Engaging the lives of those who enter the Idea Store and utilize its services and materials. There are 4 areas that can be used to that customer empowerment, enrichment & engagement: the products and services offered, the built environment, the communications with the customers, and the behavior of the staff. Each of these areas have been overhauled for the Idea Store concept and the results are staggering!

Everything in an Idea Store is full branded from the architecture to the materials to the coffee cups in the cafe and the t-shirt uniforms the staff wear. Most Idea Store outlets are open 71 hours a week, 7 days a week and 358 days a year.

The Idea Store is gaining momentum in other European countries. My question: is it coming to the U.S. and what system will be the first to try this model. It is definitely an “urban” model and location, location, location of each store is critical to success.

This was a very exciting program and concept. Change is truly in the air!

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