Because of frequent and urgent requests to set down in writing a summary of what I have learned through several years of experience in managing a reading room, the following suggestions are offered. These are not presented as a model or ideal to be followed in all cases, but merely as a recital of what we have found feasible in our own experience. Circumstances in other places may alter procedures and methods considerably.In our reading room in Los Angeles, we had three main rooms, which we will discuss in order : ( ) the salesroom, including window display and inside display ; (2) - the reading room itself ; (3) the lecture and prayer room.
I. The Sales Department Room
I. CHOICE LOCATION .—The location of a reading room should be carefully chosen, for the location will help to determine the number of contacts made, the kind of society with which they will be made, the amount of business done, and the amount of free literature distributed. The place should be chosen in a better part of town and where there is a large pedestrian traffic of at least a middle class of society. A place very close to large office buildings or other public buildings is excellent, especially on the shady side of the street, to avoid sun glare on the eyes and harmful effects on the window displays. The advertising feature of a streetcar or bus running in front of the place is an asset, though a streetcar does add to the noise and confusion of the place. We should ever bear in mind the common statement, "You get only what you pay for," and though the rent on a good location may seem high, yet the ultimate results will more than prove that the investment is worth the price.
2. SIZE AND SHAPE.—The size and shape of the room or store rented is of more than minor importance. The place should have a shape and size that would permit the sectioning off of three or four rooms. If there is a mezzanine floor for the fourth room, all the better. Besides the front part, or the display and salesroom, there should be an adjacent place for quiet meditation or reading. The entrance to this room should be a doorway (but no door) with drapes of pleasing color. Then beyond or to one side there should be a stockroom or place for storage. If lectures and Bible studies are to be a part of the daily or weekly program, still another room somewhat larger than either of the other three should be planned for. It should be long and narrow, if possible, to facilitate the use of stereopticon pictures or filmstrips. This room, somewhat secluded, can also serve- as a prayer room.
3. FURNISHINGS AND FIXTURES.—The salesroom should be large enough to have an attractive dis play of most of our books, Bibles, plaques, occasional cards (with Bible texts), and framed religious pictures. To attract the people, one should endeavor to have the "best display in town of the greatest variety"—the things that people want. This establishes a confidence in the minds of the public that you have what they want, and they could not benefit by searching elsewhere. The news of such a place goes far and fast by word of mouth.
If space is at a premium, cabinet drawers can be easily placed in the display tables, down to within three inches of the floor. The cabinet style of display table not only gives much added room for stock supplies but enhances the beauty of the place. You might have a bookrack against the wall to the left of the door where people enter, and another to the right along the other wall. These can be some ten or twelve feet long if space permits, about two feet thick at the base, and graduate up to six inches thick at the top, being six feet high over all. If these racks have heavy, six-inch plate glass strips to hold the books in, the entire book is visible, and the expense is nominal. The rack on the left could hold the attractive Crisis Series, Bedtime Stories and other children's books, also numerous song and chorus books the right-hand rack should contain our other books, the various books of the Spirit of prophecy, and inspirational books.
A sizable table can be placed in the very center of the room for the Bibles. (The one we had in Los Angeles was thirty inches by seven or eight feet long.) These can be arranged so as to place as many as one hundred Bibles or more without too much crowding. These Bibles can be stood on end between book ends, especially if they are the zipper type. In the center a sizable pile can be made, starting with the largest and ending with the very smallest. New Testaments and various other translations can be placed upright at one end of the table, between book ends. In front of this the smaller New Testaments can stand on end between other book ends. Then on the farthest corner, the cheapest clothbound Bibles can be piled.
There can be a smaller rack for the Companion Series in a conspicuous part of the room, with miscellaneous small books and pamphlets, children's color books, Bible study sets, health series, quiz books on the Bible, etc. This rack does not have to be more than about four feet long, but should have several drawers in the base. A cabinet table-with other articles for inspirational books, and smaller popular items, all of a religious nature, having Bible texts upon them, is very helpful. The top can have graduated trays or bins, rising some six or eight inches at the rear. Above this on the wall, have a picture or two; or better still, a large cardboard circle, some three feet in diameter, or a square, covered with a velours paper of dark green, royal blue, or dark red (whichever matches the color scheme). On this, place an assortment of cards, etc., held up or pinned to the board with Dennison's No. 37 card holders. All tables show up better covered with a dark red velvet or other material of a pleasing color matching the door drapes. There should be one sizable covered table for plaques ,of all kinds, preferably the smaller sizes.
It is well to have one comfortable chair (mainly for the use of the attendants) and a small chair. 'There should be a nice streamlined desk, with a hard-top surface (about 25 by 6o inches), with plenty of space for the money drawer, or cash register, wrapping paper, paper sacks, string, and other articles that are generally needed. A high stool should be behind the counter. This is more restful than an ordinary chair for this work and more convenient in frequently rising to serve customers.
All furniture, as far as possible, should be painted to match. The lighting should be of some indirect system, probably two or three floor lamps, kept lighted all the hours the place is open, for light attracts. A drinking fountain or bottled water is very essential, as is also a telephone. The name in the phone book should be the same as that on the window and the sign above. A potted palm tree, rubber plant, or other sturdy shrub, adds to the cheer and attractiveness of the place.
An electric clock in a readily visible place, and readable from the window, is much appreciated by the public. A suitable large, lighted picture, about three by four feet in size, placed near the rear of the room, is a fine attraction if obtainable. Several large-size pictures of a religious nature can hang on the walls. An attractive waxed linoleum covering on the floor is one of the best, and the most easily cleaned floor surface for all seasons of the year, and it should sparkle with cleanliness. In fact, neatness and cleanliness should characterize the whole place at all times. If the reading room is connected with a radio broadcast (which is very important and helpful), there should be a radio to enable the people to hear that program if they so desire. A portable battery set is sometimes the most handy, for it must be placed where it will not disturb others who may not be inclined to listen at the time.
4. THE WINDOW DISPLAY.—The widow display is probably the best advertisement that a reading room has ; therefore much care and forethought should be given it without too much thought to moderate expense. It is well to change the display about once a month. When one finds material that is very suitable and usable, it should be purchased by the roll, or quantity (whether in wartime or not), for it may not be available
when next you want it. The velours paper (which has the appearance of velvet on paper) comes in three colors—dark green, dark (royal) blue, and dark red—any of which is very attractive for backgrounds, doilies, squares, circles, book displays, etc.
There might be a tendency to put too much in a window, but one should always remember—the majority of persons see what they want in a window, and come in after the article. Some will come in to look around casually or satisfy their curiosity, but it is safe to estimate that eighty-five per cent buy "through the widow." Therefore, even though the plaques, books, pictures, and smaller items in the windows may seem numerous, yet a wide variety in the display seems necessary.
A good Bible display should always be in prominence (sometimes in a pile, other times between book ends, and in various other ways). Christ should be made prominent as the general theme as much as possible. Statements such as "Christ Our Righteousness," or "Christ Is All and in All," can be placed on the blackboard in raised letters. A small sign in front of the Bibles, "Read the Bible," is a good suggestive thought. For the books displayed, a statement such as "Books That Are a Blessing to Mind and Soul Are Needed," can be placed above the reading racks also.
The window should be well lighted from above, with from four to eight zoo-watt lights all during the open hours, including the daytime. A small sign above the doorway entrance, at right angles and horizontal to it, with the name of the place, is very important, not only to help people who are looking for it, but to cause pedestrians to look in and see what it is all about. A woman who was passing a window of the reading room one Sun day was heard to exclaim, "It is just like a sermon to read those mottoes." She told how she had left a large church right in the middle of a dry sermon to finish her spiritual food from our window.
5. INSIDE DISPLAY.—The inside display can be so neat and appealing that people will say, "There is something about the atmosphere of this place that simply draws me in." Or, "This place is different from any other place I have ever seen."
The table of plaques should be near the door, as they are the articles which attract the eye and sell readily, bringing the most profit. It is possible to have a display of some 175 plaques (from 15 cents to $1.25 each) in a space thirty inches by eight feet, with careful planning. An other rack about 12 or 15 inches above the table, and resting upon a standard at each end, makes room for some fifty of the smaller plaques.
If the Bible display table is in the very center of the room, it will be the first thing seen as one enters, and will attract a large number of people. It helps people to remember that their Bible is nearly worn out, or that they need a gift for a loved one, a boy or girl in the service, or perhaps a birthday gift. It is well to have the best selection of Bibles in the city, with all popular makes, such as Oxford, Holman, Nelson, Coffins, Winston, Cambridge, National, Thompson Reference (Kirkbride Co.), American Bible Society, and others. All the different languages obtainable should be on hand, as well as different transla ions. We want all kinds of people to get the habit of coming, knowing that if it is obtainable anywhere, it is likely to be obtained at "that reading room."
The Crisis Series is a colorful and attractive display, and the Bedtime Series is in great demand by all parents, schoolteachers, and grand parents. The occasional cards (birthday, get-well, sympathy, congratulations, wedding anniversaries, baby announcements, thank-you, gift cards, etc.) should each have a Bible text inside as well as the specific wish it bears, for you are not competing with the regular card stores. (If you were, you would have to have a whole room for nothing but cards of all kinds.) Some people will go across town to get such a card, for it is distinctive.
—To be concluded in May