This is the second post in a series about creating book displays in the school library.
There is a true art to creating a successful book display, one in which students will stop and scan the titles, maybe browse a few, and check out at least one. It is important to be intentional about the topic you choose and the types of books you include. The goal of the display is to be appealing to as many students as possible so the books get checked out! Too often library-school coursework doesn’t include formal training on how to create a physical book display, but librarians are full of ideas and creativity! This is where the power of networking and social media are at its finest–with suggestions and support galore.
Why create book displays?
I create book displays for all kinds of reasons, but primarily it is to give books that are usually overlooked some limelight. Regardless of the topic, I try to include titles that are pretty great but maybe haven’t received the attention and circulation I expected. Other reasons to create displays might be for monthly observances, themes that might be popular or focused on in your school, or trends in pop culture and social media. Some librarians even create displays for books that are on the verge of being weeded–called something like “Last Chance”–to see if students will check them out if they are more heavily promoted.
As much as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” students still judge books by their covers and the more front-facing books you can showcase in your library, the better. Students who get overwhelmed by reading sideways spine titles rely quite a bit on front-facing books, so displays, wherever you place them, can help students more easily locate books that interest them.
What locations are best?
Most of my displays are in the general vicinity of the library entrance, which helps students to feel welcomed and invited into the library space. It also encourages low-risk browsing of high-interest and relevant titles before accessing the shelves. Students might find the books they were initially looking for on the displays and then check out a few more titles on the same topic!
I have also found great success in putting books on display at the end of the individual shelves, too. It helps make the shelves more inviting and offers more opportunities for students to interact with the collection.
Really, the best places for displays are wherever you can make them work and students will notice them. It might be a table that is set apart from your shelves or an extra set of shelves at the end of a row. You might consider using an end of the circulation desk, a window that overlooks a hallway, or something else entirely.
How do I decide what to feature?
Displays can take as little or as much time as you choose to put into them. Some of the most popular displays in my library are the books that we purchase from the book fair, cookbooks, and our spooky “Dare to Be Scared” display. When putting a display together, it’s important to consider your school population and their interests in order to meet your goal–getting the books checked out!
How to select titles for a display:
- Include a variety of formats and reading levels when putting together a display, including graphic novels, nonfiction, fiction, and audiobooks. If you have e-books, consider printing the book covers and including them in some way, too. This gives students the chance to enjoy and benefit from your display regardless of the type of books they like to read.
- Enable all students to feel represented in your displays by including a variety of characters and experiences, including gender, setting/location, and background (socioeconomic, ethnicity, family dynamic, etc.).
- Make sure the covers are appealing! Since these books will be on display for students to interact with, choose books that have an enticing front cover and are free of dirt and damage.
Ideas for display themes:
- Daily, weekly, or monthly observances, like International Games Week (Nov. 7-13), STEM/STEAM Day (Nov. 8), National Origami Day (Nov. 11), or National Novel Writing Month. Learn about more observances on Nationaltoday.com..
- Social-emotional learning, including stress less, empathy, or being a good friend
- Get making!–a makerspace-related display of book titles.
- “I didn’t know we had that!”–books that might be overlooked, on a wide variety of topics or focused on a particular genre.
- Ask your students! Sometimes your frequent readers (and even your not-so-frequent readers) will have ideas for book displays.
- Take a look at my first blog post about book displays for more ideas!
Signage and maintenance
While some students may be able to guess the topic or theme of your display, you probably need some signage. It could be cute and catchy, a simple phrase, a question, or an inspirational quote, depending on what the topic is. I typically create my display signage using Adobe Spark, PosterMyWall.com, Canva, or when I need something quickly, I use a Google Doc with a fun yet accessible font. I keep all my signage in a file folder that is easily accessible for reuse, as well. Some librarians go all out and fully decorate a display with props, art, or other items related to the topic. Do what’s best for you and your students!
To keep your students engaged, you need to figure out how often you will rotate out your displays to continue to attract interest and visitors. At the beginning of my library career, I frequently forgot about changing up my displays; I had a lot of other things to do and it seemed to be “one more thing” for me to remember. Now, I change up my displays monthly and set a reminder in my Outlook calendar about a week before the end of the month; this way, I have time to think about new topics and create new signage before the month changes.
What tips or advice do you have for creating book displays? Share your ideas in the comments!
Author: Rachel Grover
Rachel Grover is a middle school librarian in Fairfax County, Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for the Virginia Association of School Librarians. She has published articles on ways to make school libraries accessible for Knowledge Quest and on genrefying the library collection for School Library Connection. She also has developed workshops for beginning librarians for School Library Connection. Rachel was an elementary school teacher for two years before beginning life as a middle-school English teacher in 2009. In 2014, she joined Libraryland, finding a dream job she didn’t even know was her dream! When she is not working, she loves reading, tinkering with technology, traveling, taking photographs, and sleeping in. Her passions include genrefication, makerspaces, technology, collaboration with teachers across the curriculum, and making school libraries equitable and accessible for all learners.