A few weeks ago I went to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NYC, with a couple of friends, at about 8:30 PM on a Friday night. We went to the store to actually look for something specific. Within a few minutes we realized a purchase wasn’t going to happen. That didn’t mean we left the store however. We actually ended up staying in the store for at least 30 minutes. What were we doing? People watching.
I took pictures during our people watching because I found what we were seeing so fascinating. The store was packed. (Remember it was 8:30 PM on a Friday night.) The people in the store weren’t actually there to buy things. Instead it was pretty obvious that the people there were actually hanging out – using computers, waiting to use computers, checking out products, etc. The people in the store were a variety of ages and types. 20somethings, 30somethings, 40somethings, 50somethings, 60somethings (and probably younger and older) were definitely represented.
Ever since I was at the Apple Store I’ve been looking at the pictures that I took and thinking about what I saw. I’ve been asking myself:
- Why was the store packed on a Friday night?
- What is it about the store atmosphere that makes being there comfortable?
- What is it about the store atmosphere that makes people feel like they can hang out without buying?
- What is it about the store that brings in people of all different ages?
Do I have answers? Some, and I do think that those of us working with teens need to think about the questions along with some others and consider the implications for space and service. We need to think about the non-library environments that are appealing to teens and what the appeal is. We need to think how we might partner with these environments in order to connect with teens.
The Apple Store is perhaps a good example of what people are looking for in a public space where they purchase (or in the case of a library borrow) something. The Apple Store is obviously about selling product, but it is also about creating a brand identity and a sense of personal identity that people who use the brand take on. How do we create that kind of identity for libraries and connect that identity to teens?
I’m also thinking about the results from the Harris Interactive Poll that were released a couple of weeks ago in relation to my Apple Store visit. In that poll teens reported that they visit the library primarily to pick up materials. They don’t necessarily hangout. They go in and out. If the Apple Store can get people to do more than run in and out for a particular purpose, can’t we?
The Apple store at my local mall is always packed. I wonder how libraries in malls do, though… we can’t discount being where our users are.
Did you notice the signage at the Apple Store? I mean, did it say, no cell phones/food/drinks? I feel hyper-alert to library signage lately. Some of my recent favorites:
“This is not a toy” (posted on button that opens the library door for people in wheelchairs) AND on the elevator
“Absolutely NO gum chewing” (on a banner at the entrance)
Bet they were playing music and/or video, too, at the Apple store… creating an atmosphere condusive to conversation, unlike most public libraries, where even if the LIBRARIANS are fine with a noisy library, users tradionally are NOT, and consider libraries serious places where silence rules.
Why was the store packed? How many public space can you find that are open on a Friday night that are well lit and comfortable for socializing. When I was running a teen program that had our branch open until Midnight each Friday night, only teens were allowed in the meeting room but the rest of the library was open to the public. And people LOVED it. It was eventually cut because of a tax cap, but the community still misses it to this day. I’m all for late Friday night hours…especially since most teens are overbooked after school, when we are offering them most programming.
Teen Marketing: Apple’s the Master: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/aug2007/tc20070815_636359.htm