Country Inns builds its library

The Country Inns & Suites Read It and Return lending library program has expanded with a recent partnership with Random House.

MINNEAPOLIS—The Country Inns & Suites Read It and Return lending library isn’t new to the midscale hotel category, but its recent partnership with Random House has expanded the program to include more genres and a supply of 30,000 books twice annually to U.S. and Canadian hotels. 

“We started it in 2001 and at that time it was a small program; it was in the U.S. and Canada. It was about 10 books on a mantel,” Aurora Toth, vice-president of branding and marketing, Country Inns & Suites by Carlson, told CLN. She added that they tried multiple partnerships, testing magazines, games and types of books, “but now we’re at the point that this partnership with Random House allows us to expand our offering in different genres and have more best sellers.”  

The program allows guests to borrow a book from the lobby library area and return it to another location. 

“Our lobbies are pretty iconic in that we have more of a home-like feel,” said Toth, who described living room-style furniture gathered before a fireplace, with built in or freestanding bookshelves on either side.

“We are told by our guests that [the lobby] feels much less corporate and more like being in someone’s home,” said Toth. 

She said the library program is equally appealing to leisure travellers, especially parents with children – and business guests who have wrapped up work for the day. 

Toth said the brand receives a number of positive messages about the program through social media, pointing out a particular message on Facebook from a family staying in a city without a Country Inns & Suites location. “Upon walking in the front door my four-year-said ‘where’s the library?’” the message read. 

She said the program, coupled with the other unexpected touches of home the brand highlights, allows the hotels a point of differentiation from other midsize chains. 

The hotels must stock a minimum of 50 books at all times and can choose genres and titles depending on clientele. When stock is turned over the older titles are donated. 

She said while many people do return the books, many take them home. “We’ve decided that that’s OK, because we’re promoting reading and literacy. We budget for that knowing that we’re not going to get all [the books] back.”