How Do Library Displays Happen?

Kerry O'Donnell | April 20, 2017

The inner-workings of the library can be something of a mystery. Especially if you don’t have a chance to visit us that often. You might not know, for example, what goes into creating a library display (hint–there’s a little more to it than throwing random titles onto a shelf or table).

Why does the library need displays at all?

There are plenty of reasons why displays are useful in a library. Many people like to browse in the library, and finding the right book can sometimes be harder than locating the proverbial needle in a haystack. When we put together collections for display, we hope to make it easier for you to find your next great read. Displays are useful for informing our community about special events and celebrations occurring in a given month, and  they can be used to promote programs we have coming up. We make displays that engage in current trends and pop culture, ask questions that can entertain, or help us improve services we offer.

Here in Brookline, different staff members work on displays in different parts of the library. Our children’s librarians and our teen librarian work on displays for their departments. Children’s staff also work with our youngest patrons to put together displays by kids in Brookline. Every couple of weeks, a new child is given the opportunity to show off an amazing collection in one of two displays. You can find one in the glass display at the entrance of the children’s room and the other in the glass display table near the Children’s Room service desk at our Brookline Village location.

You can also find art installations located in all three branches of the library. These works come from local artists, from town organizations/committees, and, sometimes, from our own staff.

Where/how do the librarians create displays?

Most book displays made at our library are put together by a committee of library staff from various departments, including reference, circulation, technical services, and administration. The group gathers every three months to create a list of displays for the upcoming season. The committee generally focuses on titles for adults, but you will find the occasional children’s or teen titles on our displays. When we get together, we all bring ideas for displays highlighting upcoming celebrations, monthly observances, current trends, pop culture ideas, holidays, and more. Then we discuss them and narrow down our list until we have one idea for each of our display locations. Next, we pick and choose who is going to create each display. Once that’s settled, we’re off and running!

Each staff member on the committee might have a slightly different way of putting their display together; I like to start off by creating a sign. I use Microsoft Publisher for my designs, starting with a blank template for the display I’ll be working on.

From there, I develop a design based on the subject of the display. Last October, for example, the committee chose “horror” as a theme for a book display, in honor of Halloween. I wanted the image for the display to be creepy, but I didn’t want it to have a lot of pictures cluttering up the text. I found a suitably spooky font and was able to use it to create my title. Then I found a dripping, gooey, paint-like image to go along with the white, dripping text. Luckily, the image had a transparent background; I was able to pop it in, and it worked great. The final piece was coloring the background so that it was sufficiently dark and bloody-looking.

Voila! A display sign made just for our library’s creepiest horror books!

Once my sign is ready to go, it’s time for a little catalog research to put together a list of books that go along with the subject/topic. For the horror display, I did a keyword search for “horror” in the Minuteman Catalog. Then I narrowed down the results by selecting “Brookline” for both location and collection to eliminate any results from other libraries. I further refined my search by format to get rid of everything except books. From there, I put together a list of available titles, both fiction and nonfiction. I printed out my sign, collected the books from the shelves, and put it all together. The last part of this process is making sure that the displays stay stocked with great books, so that when you–our patrons–come in, there are as many options as possible to chose from.

One display that we keep up throughout the entire year is our “Staff Picks” display. Each department is given a month to put their favorite titles on display for people to check out. We really enjoy this one because it means we get to share the things we love with our patrons. This display includes not only books, but also movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and even our favorite cake pans or board games! Perhaps our favorite TV show will become your next binge-watching session or our kid’s favorite book will become your child’s favorite too.

Here’s a selection of some of the displays I’ve created for the library over the past couple of years. It’s one of my favorite parts of working at the Public Library of Brookline!