I was quite the spy today at my local Barnes and Noble store. I went looking for Food Rules by Michael Pollan. I was by myself and took my time looking around. I checked the paperback display areas, the nonfiction display areas, and the sections about nutrition, cooking, and food. I even looked in Social Sciences. I found some interesting books, and grabbed a few, but not the one I wanted. So I went to wait in line at the information counter. There were two people working there, a line of people and a ringing phone. One of the workers went off to help a customer and a man was left to answer phones and the people waiting in line. He was nice and helpful, and people had mostly questions about the location of particular books, like I did. He disappeared to get me the book, came back and was ready to answer more questions (I never did find out what section Food Rules is in).
Next, I lingered by the information desk browsing my load of books. As I stood watching and listening, new people were constatnly coming up to the counter and asking for titles. It made me wonder about all they hype the bookstore shelving idea gets in the library world. Does it really decrease the amount of questions and increase self service? I'll bet that nice young man at the information desk goes home exhausted at the end of every day - and this was a 3:00 on a Thursday! Imagine what a Saturday must be like.
Image: Shakespeare & Co., Paris