Ten Tips for Better Book Displays

1. Displays should reflect your customers’ reading interests, not yours.  You might be fascinated by ancient Japanese sword fighting or the history of dominos, but that doesn’t mean that books on those topics will make a good display.  While a fair amount of time might be spent filling a display fixture with books, the ultimate goal is for that fixture to be empty soon after. 

2. The books should be the stars of the display.  Choose books with fresh, visually appealing covers in good condition.

3. While the books are the stars, eye-catching visual signage is key.  This does not require bells and whistles – in fact, when it comes to display signage, less is more.  Choose a simple, readable font over an intricate one.  Incorporate plenty of white space into the design.  Choose card stock over construction paper and simple color palettes over neon and glitter.

4. If there is an icon or other key visual element associated with the theme of the display, be sure to include it in the signage.  This might be a logo or a symbol or simply an author’s photo.  It may be all the sign needs.

 

5. Use props judiciously.  A single bicycle wheel propped next to the sign for a display of books about cycling.  A single pumpkin with a sign that says Boo! for Halloween.  A small vintage suitcase can serve as the stand for the sign for a travel display.  Choose one 3D element over lots of smaller tschotskes.

6. Make it clear that the items on display can be checked out.  This may be clear to us, but it is not always so for our customers.  Here, the sticker that is used on display books is incorporated into the small signage that is included in the display:

7.  Don’t limit yourself to books.  Whenever possible, include a mix of audiobooks, DVDs, and even CDs.

8.  Consider moving beyond tightly themed displays to more general ones that can be used anytime:

  • Staff Picks
  • Patron Picks
  • People You Should Meet
  • Greatest Hits of the ____ (insert decade)
  • Good Books You May Have Missed
  • What Your Neighbors Are Reading (Put this sign on a cart of just returned books – they’ll fly out of the building and your shelvers will thank you!)

9.  Unless the items are priceless or irreplaceable, do not put book displays behind glass.  Putting books in a locked glass front display case says “Here are some great books from our collection, but you can’t have them!”  It’s the equivalent of a “nanny-nanny, boo-boo” to customers.

If you have glass cases, free them up for local artists, crafters, or collectors to display their wares.  You could even give local children a chance to display their collections of dolls, Legos, action figures, or tractors:

10.  Be flexible and have fun!  Be willing and ready to change plans and throw up a display based on the news of the day.  Here’s a display that went up within hours of the announcement of a local author’s passing – we gathered his books and put it all out on a cart for a few days:

 

Displays should be fun, both for you to create and for your customers to browse.  Here are a few that got lots of attention and let folks know that we are tuned into pop culture and definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously:

 

Have a tip for creating great book displays?  Please share!

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13 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Better Book Displays

  1. Just curious: what were the books selected for National Bathroom Reading Month? and which month is this? I want to be ready this year!

    1. @annh National Bathroom Reading Month, or NBRM as we here at 658.8 like to call it, is observed every June. The month is sponsored by the Bathroom Readers’ Institute, a group that “leads the movement to stand up for those who sit down and read in the bathroom. National Bathroom Reading Month celebrates the 66 percent of Americans who proudly admit to this time-honored pastime.”

      For our display, we included books like “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader,” “Schott’s Original Miscellany,” and other collections of essays, trivia, and short stories. It garnered a lot of attention, both in the physical library and on Twitter, where we posted a pic of the sign and received many comments and questions just like yours – it was also retweeted many times over.

      Be sure to let us know how your display turns out!

  2. I’m always interested in tips for book displays and there were many good practical ideas shared in your post.

    We were just talking about bathroom reading in our library and wondered what people do read in that venue. I’ll confess, mine is usually something from a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Thanks for the tip that I can actually create this display come June. Perhaps I’ll ask patrons to add their favorite bathroom reads to the display. I haven’t had much luck getting patrons to add to the displays but sometimes ask that they do.

    The simplicity of your displays, bold signage, few inexpensive props makes these doable by anyone with some books and imagination.

    How often do you change your displays. We try to give them 3-4 weeks. Sometimes, we’ll leave some longer when they have a very broad focus. Presently I have a romance display with simple heart shaped valentines and two of those little specialized ducks. I tried to choose some love stories that are less known, using all parts of the collection. I am just about to take down the 2 others so your post is timely. I had a “It’s a War of a Story” filled with books from any war and a “Seriously Series” featuring some lesser known series from our collection.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Carol! I’m hoping that every post will offer timely takeaways to implement and act upon. I usually recommend that displays change every 3 weeks or so, which often reflects a single circulation period. However, I really encourage flexibility – if after a week, the same books are on the display that were there on the first day it went up, that’s an indicator that for some reason it is not resonating with your public and maybe it should come on down. Sometimes, if the theme of the display is narrow or if it’s just an incredibly popular one, there may not be enough items to keep it filled up. In short, be flexible and responsive!

    1. Josh! Sorry for the delay – you comment was accidentally flagged as as spam! Let’s see, how about:

      – Scary Old Dudes, a display featuring classic horror authors (think Hawthorne, Poe, etc.)
      – Short & Scary, horror short stories
      – The King of Horror, a display with all of Stephen King’s horror books

      Susan

  3. For the winter I created a “Snow many books, Snow little time” display. I had two paper snowmen on the wall and snowflakes as the background. This allowed me to change the books/theme, but keep the display the same.

    I also have an “If you like, try…” bulletin board

  4. Great tips, but I am in charge of two display cases that are locked glass cases and I always have a hard time filling them! I don’t know enough local artists to fill them every month and people do not respond to the sign that I have posted asking for local artists, collectors, etc. Any suggestions?

    1. Is there a local art guild or artist’s collective? Maybe they could fill it? Or maybe local high school art classes?

      What about local museums or historical society? They could loan some artifacts or realia?

  5. In the fall, I simply collect as many novels with red covers as possible and make that my fall display. Very eye catching and the books fly off the shelves.

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