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!