It would seem that “business” and “library” are completely incompatible concepts. Libraries mainly have the status of state and municipal institutions. Therefore, opening a commercial library or marketing existing libraries seems, at first glance, an absurd idea. Meanwhile, it is quite possible that it will be implemented in the near future at the state level.
So far, however, the changes will only affect libraries in Moscow, but some entrepreneurs in the regions are already considering opportunities to expand their business in this area. The library system has great potential, experts say. It still has a social vocation, intended to popularize reading among the population of the country.
The main problem is that modern libraries are not in the best condition, especially when it comes to regions. A lot of funds are needed for their modernization, although, according to experts, the return on investment from such a project is quite high.
The main idea of the commercialization of libraries is to transform them into public spaces that will become one of the centers of urban cultural life. Municipal libraries are, in fact, closed to the public. It is quite difficult to register there if, for example, you do not have a residence permit in the area where this or that library is located. Library collections are rarely updated.
Although libraries save on rent by only paying utility bills, they spend up to 70% of their money on employee salaries. With rare exceptions, funds are not being rotated at all, or are not being rotated quickly enough, at prices well above market prices, and not wisely enough.
Meanwhile, library services are in great demand by a large portion of the population. And not just among low-income people, as is commonly believed. For example, library users are lovers of modern literature and parents of children of preschool and primary school age.
They follow the novelties of the book market and can afford to buy the publications that interest them. However, they have nowhere to store such a number of books that can be read at most once. Polls show that they would gladly borrow books to read at home for a small fee if they could find them in libraries.
Western entrepreneurs have long noticed the potential of libraries and are actively using this model to grow their business. For example, on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand, there is an expensive hotel called the Library, which offers its guests a new type of intellectual vacation.
Instead of the usual bar or restaurant, this hotel has a large library with a wide selection of literature by the pool. Curiously, this unusual hotel is in high demand by vacationers.
There are also mobile libraries on buses (Business Idea No. 634). One of the authors of such a project called Library Bus Project even won an award from the Swedish Library Society, and his idea received the title “Project of the Year”.
The purpose of such a library on wheels is to render services to the public, to popularize books and the idea of reading. In addition to lending books, the library offers visitors the possibility of communicating on the Internet and holding meetings of interest. There is a cinema, a computer games and music section, an Internet access point.
Starting a library
Of course, opening even a small commercial library is not as easy as it seems.
This will require a separate room in the city center (the best option for a city with less than 500,000 people) or in a large residential area. Unlike ordinary libraries, the interior of a private library should be thought out to the smallest detail. After all, it’s not just a place where people can rent a book. It is above all a club of interest, a place of work, communication and meeting of the inhabitants of the district where your library is located.
It is desirable that the room be spacious enough (with an area of at least 60-70 square meters) or consist of two separate parts – a small reading room and space for shelves. Furniture can be purchased inexpensively. The main thing is that it is comfortable. For example, many book clubs and similar public places buy tables, chairs, sofas and armchairs from IKEA.
Of course, these pieces of furniture are quite the same type and recognizable, but if you wish, you can give them a unique character without high costs. Some turn to companies that make furniture to order. In some cases, it even turns out cheaper than bought.
The “range” of a private library (unless it has a narrow specialization) should have a wide selection of classic literature. There will be no problem with this: books can be borrowed from your personal library, bought from second-hand bookstores or bookstores, or bought for a pittance through advertisements on the Internet.
But be prepared for the fact that the majority of visitors will come to the library in search of new books that cannot yet be found and read for free in electronic form on the Internet. Therefore, it is necessary to constantly monitor the emergence of interesting literature on the book market and purchase 2-3 copies of new publications that are likely to.
How the business works?
About 20 to 30,000 books are presented in the collection of a medium-sized library. A private library may have ten times fewer books, but these should be mostly sought-after publications. With an average price of 30-50 US dollars for a new book, the purchase of 100 novelties of books alone will require, on average, 40 US dollars. In addition, book collections should be renewed regularly so that regular readers are encouraged to constantly use the services of a paying library.
To make it easier to use your library’s services, you need to create a convenient catalogue. If you’re opening your own book club in a big city, it makes sense to consider creating a website with an electronic catalogue and the ability to reserve a book online. For example, your regular readers might look on the site to see if a book they’re interested in is available and ask to put it aside for them for a while.
A private library may offer other non-standard services, such as delivering a book to the reader’s office or home for an additional fee. Also, on the library’s website, you can give users the opportunity to express their wishes, what new books they would like to read. This will allow you to buy popular new items that will certainly not be stale on the shelves.
A commercial library that has book club status has two main sources of revenue. First, the owner of such a club profits from renting books. Let’s say a new book costs 35 dollars. It is issued to the reader on bail for the cost of the book.
After reading, it is returned to the library, and the amount of the deposit is returned to the customer minus a small percentage (for example, 50 dollars) plus a fine if the book was returned later than the agreed date. Either the reader issues a paid subscription, which allows him to take a certain number of books within a month, six months or a year without additional payment.
By the way, libraries in many Western cities also operate on a semi-commercial basis. So, for example, residents of the city can use library services for free, while others pay the cost of a subscription in the amount of about 1,000 dollars per term. Also, in addition to books, in these libraries you can borrow magazines, newspapers and even DVDs, use the electronic storage of music and movies and rent a laptop for work or accessing the Internet.
For Russian private library-clubs, the second source of income is particularly interesting – renting premises for meetings, meetings, training, seminars, master classes, friendly conversations or work. In fact, the library operates as an anti-café with an hourly wage per stay. True, in the latter, although they do not offer food, they nevertheless allow you to bring it with you or order it from a nearby cafe. It is not customary to bring food into libraries, although if the rented reading room is isolated from the room with books, then it is quite possible to offer visitors tea or coffee with sweets. The organization of
If funds allow, you can buy 1-2 laptops for work (in this case, the library can serve as an alternative to the home office), install a WiFi hotspot, buy e-book readers and several board games.
Commercial libraries advantages
Commercial libraries have a big advantage over public libraries:
- They have the ability to hire students, which can save a lot on labor costs.
- Young people, for example, can work in a library on a rotating basis, being paid for the hours worked rather than a fixed salary.
- Normal library hours are weekdays 9am-6pm-7pm.
- Commercial libraries are open to visitors from 8am-9am to 7pm-8pm, including one or even two public holidays.
What the library is offering?
A specialized library is the best option for a commercial institution. For example, such a library may offer exclusively commercial literature (as a rule, it operates in the form of a cafe) or be intended only for children. In the latter case, it is a cross between a library and a children’s recreation center. By the way, paid classes with children are also held in large city libraries (literary circles, fine arts, creativity). The amount of the lesson is usually symbolic.
Paid book clubs can also offer lessons not only to preschool and elementary school children, but also to teenagers. The last option looks quite promising. There are more than enough children’s centers, which mainly provide services to prepare the child for school, organize development courses, offer courses with speech therapists and psychological consultations, even in small towns. But there are far fewer options for teen classes, although these services are just as in demand.
Positioning and ROI on starting a library
If you are positioning your club as a recreation center, it is not necessary to obtain a license to provide services in the field of education. However, if words such as “develop”, “educational”, or the name of a specific technique appear in your center’s training curriculum, you will need to obtain a license and status as a KNOU.
This comes with some difficulties: higher requirements for the premises chosen, for the methodology and for the teachers who work for you. If you have an educational background and plan to work independently, you can apply for IP and operate on your own, without involving additional employees.
In this case, we are talking about tutoring. You can simply rent a separate room and hold classes with children. A library with literature for children and teenagers can be an additional means of attracting customers.
Profitability depends on the format of your library. On average, such a center can recover all expenses within 4-6 months from the start of its work, and by the end of the first year it will begin to generate a stable profit (according to forecasts, it can be about 100-150 thousand rubles per month in large cities).
Experts advise to open a private library in early autumn, since there is a significant drop in the summer. Adults go on vacation, children go out of town, to grandmother’s or to the sea. Another period of calm falls on the winter holidays – from mid-December to mid-January.