There have always been those who deny the basic appeal of a Book Fair. “You can’t get people to come to the Library just for books!” they cried, back in 1985, and so we had stilt walkers and balloons and a young lady dressed as Alice in Wonderland, which was wonderful because it was August and it rained that day. Don’t you just hate it when you dress up as a girl in a fairy tale and it’s hot and sticky and rainy? I know I always pout.
I once told one of these thinker-tinkers, “I really don’t want to give up any space that could be used for selling books.”
She shook a finger at me. “Ah, but not everyone comes to the Book Fair to buy books.”
I am afraid, dear blog fan, that I told the good lady, “Well, verb the people who don’t come to buy books.” She was a bit taken aback, but she got my drift.
There have been others, though, who, over the years, have told me the customer deserves more bang for the buck, and that we should have:
Piped-in music (We had this at the Very Merry Bazaar; spent a lot of money on a sound system and spent a lot of time picking out music that couldn’t possibly offend anybody. The problem is that piped-in music by itself offends some people.)
A Book Fair designed like a Monopoly Board (The idea was that customers would have to move to every square on the board in proper order to shop. I wonder why Macy’s never thought of designing a store that way.)
All the volunteers in costume (It’s July, friends. Besides, aren’t the aprons enough?)
Decorations suitable to the subject (Bookman’s Alley in Evanston did great work with this: vintage tennis and golf equipment in the sports section, nautical decorations near the travel books. Wouldn’t cost us much more than the Book Fair makes in a year)
Prizes in Books (A scavenger hunt, see: at its most basic, we could just hide a hundred dollar bill in some book and the person who bought the book got to keep it. No, I was told, people would not just tear apart every book and throw it to the floor looking for the prize and then not buy the book. OUR customers aren’t like that.)
A Celebrity Cutting a Ribbon to Open the Fair (Let’s say we get Oprah. I can see the headlines next day: Winfrey Killed by Stampeding Book Lovers. I have nothing against celebrities, really. They can come and SHOP if they want to be part of the experience)
An Auction of the Really Good Books (Auction: where a hundred people stand around and watch two people bid on a book. Book Fair: where a hundred people rush around buying books. Have an auction, if you like that kind of thing. Just don’t do it during the Book Fair)
Book Signings: (Again, I don’t want customers becoming spectators, watching a Big Name write his Big Name in his latest Big Book when they could be running around shopping.)
I’m not against a little glitz; I just don’t need anything that’s going to a) cost money b) take up space, or c) use more of my limited storage space (where do I KEEP the costumes and decorations the rest of the year?) Most of these suggestions not only do one of those three things but also d) distract customers from doing their shopping. What I would do to jazz up the Book Fair a bit is put brighter lights in a couple of rooms, and add one lighted, beeping, jolly little R-2 D-2 style machine in the lobby.
It would be an ATM, so everyone could give us more cash. Now THAT’S entertainment!