DISTRIBUTION CENTERSBy "distribution centers" we mean actual book centers open to the public as a means of apostolate. They are so called because they must be apostolate centers, from which spread rays of light and grace to enlighten and animate people.
Formation and organization
Such distribution centers, in the sense above, must be at the service of the dioceses and parishes. There should be at least one for every parish or at least for every diocese.
To open a center you need to have the approval of Church authority and the endorsement of civil authority.
Under the title of organization come management and order. Management is the head center's role. However the centers can be run by the apostle or by his cooperators.
Order concerns the furnishing and type of stock for distribution, the upkeep and the decor of the premises.
Stock for the distribution centers are the books and products of Catholic publishers; [it also fosters] all those projects that can directly or indirectly contribute to the apostolate.
The furnishing of stock requires foresight as regards ordering, time of arrival, opening and checking parcels, recording of books and marking the price offering. The best way of dividing books is by subject matter. In this case books with the same or similar content must be placed side by side so as to be more easily accessible. In large centers these divisions can be in many sections with their sub-groupings. In the smaller centers instead the following division may be sufficient: Holy Scripture, Theology, Patristics, Preaching, Catechetics, Ascetics, Piety, Lives of the Saints and Biography, Formation, Education, Books for Youth, Light Reading for men, women, teenagers, children, various magazines and printed matter.
The upkeep and the decor of the premises are very important. The distribution centers are holy
places, just like the church and the school; thus there has to be order, cleanliness and good taste.
Keep the premises, the shelves and the books clean and orderly. Brush, dust and disinfect the bookcases, windows, the counter and books regularly.
Window displays of books for public viewing should be tasteful but eye-catching in such a way as to give the passer-by a sense of delight. People who enter should be able to see at a glance the categories of books according to subject matter, so as to find more easily what interests them most.
Books in window displays are to be changed regularly, keeping in mind the pertinence of seasons and feasts; preference is to be given to books over religious objects.
Order, cleanliness and decorum are to be particularly cultivated among staff in the distribution centers: the word of God that is administered demands it, as do the dignity of the apostle and the respect and charity due to the people who go there.
Knowledge of the area and of publications, how to attract the faithful, and management are all requisites for operating the distribution center properly.
You need to know the people in the area. Such information comes
through contact with Church authorities or by means of cooperators. You need to know what is in print so as to put books in the right place and to give advice to the faithful. Such knowledge comes directly, by reading the books, or indirectly, through book reviews and publishers' magazines.
The center needs to be well stocked if it is to attract the faithful. The manager is to be competent so that he can advise the faithful and help them as regards choice; he is to be tactful, able to focus their attention on publications, and have the ability to capitalize on opportunities for promotion, such as window and table displays, sending publications for review, home visitation, sending promotional material, making use of the telephone, direct sales...
The window display must be such that it attracts the attention of passers-by and gets them to stop.
Some books can be put out on display tables and arranged in such a way that the faithful are able to examine them.
Sending out sample copies is to attract the attention of the faithful, religious and clergy. To reach everyone it is advisable to have lists of the addresses of people you want to send books to and especially of all those who want the latest titles. Keep a check on newspapers, magazines, catalogs, books in print and publicity pieces to keep in touch with new titles.
Home visitation is quite useful and at times necessary. Turn your attention in particular to friends, acquaintances, cooperators, and to parish priests and pastors; then to such community groups as schools, barracks, institutes, confraternities, hospitals, prisons, offices, clubs, factories and so on.
In certain areas it may be helpful to visit newly-weds, the parents of newborn children. This is a good occasion to open the way for fruitful future promotion.
As and when needed use the telephone and the help of the press, the cinema and the radio.
Promotional material can also be sent out by mail. To this end you can get the addresses from the register of professional people, and lists of members, associations, societies and so on.
Promotional letters can be reproduced in series. It helps to give them a personal pitch, to maintain the style of an individual letter and to sign them by hand, and thus avoid giving a sales approach.
Over the counter sales in the center itself requires tact and alertness so that those who approach the counter see a person who is skilled and apostolically-minded.
The art of dealing with the faithful requires a becoming and modest appearance, an understanding of people, and it exacts some particular rules as regards distribution.
Attention has to focus first of all on the apostle himself: on his appearance, behavior, and politeness; he has to be without reproach as regards personal hygiene, neat attire, and above all, his bearing as an apostle.
An understanding of people requires shrewdness. When someone enters it helps if you make a quick and correct judgment about him or her. It is not plain curiosity, or any kind of judgment; it is to get an impression that helps you to determine your approach to those who enter and thus be able to help them in the best manner possible.
The main rules regarding distribution may be reduced to the following:
- When a person enters, avoid such superficial questions as, "May I help you?", "What would you like?" Conversation is to be specific, suited to the individual person, starting with the Christian greeting: "Praised be Jesus Christ."
- When the person has told you what he wants, try to help him quickly and completely. If you do not have what he is looking for but it is possible to get it, undertake to do so at the earliest.
- Always treat everyone, including children, with courtesy and religious charity.
- Keep the offerings-price at a fixed level and don't be inclined to make exceptions. Partiality turns people off.
Administration requires keeping an exact account of income and expenditure, and tabling an inventory and a budget.
Here you need prudence and competency. Don't trust your memory but write everything down in an orderly, methodical and accurate way. Observe all the rules required by religious and civil authority and by your own head office.
Practice and circumstances will suggest particular norms in this regard.