Written by Patricia DeWinter, Head Librarian at The OakRidge School
I am Head Librarian at a preschool through 12th grade school and always looking for creative ways to feature new books and must reads. I want to make it as simple and enjoyable as possible for students to find the perfect read. I also want to make the space appealing and welcoming so that they want to come back again and again.
Two summers ago I “genrefied” our middle school fiction collection, but not all of it. Middle school, grades 5- 8, is my biggest group, with overlapping students in grades 3 – 8 reading at this level, depending on the patron. I created a “Best Of” display area filled with books and series that have been consistent wins with past and present readers. Categories include Humor, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Scary, Realistic Fiction, Adventure, Sports, Graphic Novels and Mystery. Student aides helped me move and label all the books (labels came from Demco) and edit records in the catalog. I have as many books/series as possible facing book cover out, and the rest are alphabetized.
How did I choose which books to feature and which to leave on the shelves? I did not put Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, and Rick Riordan books in the mix because the students who read these books find them. I chose books that circulate often, get regular positive feedback from my readers, and/or I really loved. These are the books I want to keep in patron view at all times, and right at my fingertips too when students request recommendations. When students come in looking for read -alikes – they know where to go whether it’s finding something similar to the Treehouse books by Andy Griffiths or Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It’s really satisfying for me when a student walks purposefully over to the Humor shelves and after browsing for a bit finds the perfect read. I also hear a lot of conversations between patrons sharing recommendations. It’s a huge time saver for me which is great since I manage so many grade levels.
Our library also has a display area for new books, and a Read box. The new books and Read box include books I am really pushing, and I don’t want to shelve them. Either I need student feedback because the book is hot off the press, or it’s a book that doesn’t circulate, but I am certain will find its audience if I display it front and center. I’ve determined that often shelved fiction books are overlooked books – though I do peruse the shelves regularly to locate forgotten gems and series that haven’t been moving.
We also have a First to Read Shelf. Students choose a book that hasn’t been read before, if they finish it they get a “First to Read” sticker placed inside the book with their name. That sticker goes a long way in encouraging many readers to try a new book. I always ask students if they liked a book they are returning, especially if it’s new to our library.
I’ve also genrefied the teen section, and I am working on lower school displays. Currently I use a lot of bins, tubs and wire racks to ensure that books for lower school students (grades 1-4) are accessible. I also place multi volume middle school series in tubs to save shelf space. My students catch on very quickly, navigate the library displays well, and circulation is up so I feel like the system is working.
I try to change out a holiday display table by season or theme. Currently it’s scary reads, and next month I’ll focus on gratitude.
I pilfer ideas from bookstores, other public and private librarians and would love to hear your best book display ideas.