Category Archives: Displays

On Trend Displays

If you’re a fan of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, chances are that you’ve heard of Last Week Tonight with former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver. This new show is on HBO, and so goes beyond the limitations set on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report by regular network television in terms of how far they can go and what they can say. John Oliver has created a hilarious, at times ruthless, look at American and world politics that is edgy, clever, and getting increasingly popular. So, it was with great delight that I recently saw a post on twitter from Medford Public Library of a display that incorporated a great bit from a recent episode:#gogetthosegeckos

#gogetthosegeckos was a hash tag that Oliver used to get people to jokingly protest the Russian government’s space program which recently sent 5 geckos into space to study their mating habits and then lost contact with the shuttle (see this article for more details). Oliver’s hash tag campaign went instantly viral and people all over the world were participating with the show. (In a recent update, all five geckos on the ship died when the shuttle finally made it back to Earth L.)

Jokes aside, this display is a great way to incorporate pop culture and trending topics into our own libraries. For people who don’t know anything about Last Week Tonight, this will prompt questions and curiosity about library displays and what is going on at the library. For those that do, we’ve made a connection and shared in the joke. It demonstrates a sense of humour, fun, and an awareness of pop culture that I think are great qualities to showcase to our respective communities. It also helps the library connect with those in their early 20’s, a demographic we may struggle to reach. Sharing it on social media is a great way to promote our own cleverness, too. In fact, this tweet was shared with me by a friend who does not use the library, but who enjoyed the display enough to retweet it to me.

Do you have an example of a cool, trendy library display, or have an idea for one? Please share it in the comment section below!

Sarah Dearman – Information Services Librarian at Fraser Valley Regional Library


Twenty Rules for Better Book Displays – from Novelist

Twenty Rules for Better Book Displays
by Susan Brown, Novelist

1. Displays should reflect your patrons’ interests, not your personal interests. 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.

2. Displays should be popular. While a fair amount of time might be spent filling a display fixture, the ultimate goal is for that fixture to be empty. If, after a day or so, the same books are still on the display unit, consider a new topic.

3. The books should be the stars of the display. Choose books with fresh, visually appealing covers in good condition. Buckram bindings should never, ever be on display.

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

5. While the books are the stars, eye-catching visual signage is extremely important. This does not require bells and whistles or a graphic design degree. In fact, when it comes to display signage, less is more. Incorporate white space into the sign design. Use fewer words rather than more: if you need a full sentence to explain what the display is about, you need to re-think the idea. Choose card stock over construction paper and simple color palettes over neon and glitter.

6. Choose a simple, readable font over an intricate one. A few fonts I would suggest removing permanently from your display repertoire: Algerian, Bauhaus, Comic Sans, Jokerman, Old English, Ravie, and Snap. You never see stores using these fonts, so why should libraries use them? Retail merchandisers know that crisp, modern sans-serif fonts are highly readable and visually engaging. Some good ones to use on your next sign include Arial, Helvetica, or Century Gothic. You don’t have to rule out serif fonts, but do make sure they coordinate with the display. Book Antiqua would not go well with a display of graphic novels, but would work nicely with a Classic Fiction display.

7. 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.

8. Use props judiciously. A single bicycle wheel propped next to the sign for a display about cycling. A small vintage suitcase can serve as the stand for the sign for a travel display. Choose one element over lots of smaller tchotchkes. You want browsers to interact with the display by taking items off. You don’t want them to feel that if they do that, they will be messing up a work of art.

9. You want them to check display items out, so make it clear that they can. This may be obvious 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:

10. Add value. A great way to add value to a book display is to include a bookmark with further reading, listening, or viewing. For our “Back to School” display, we included a small book mark with “Ten Great Books about Academia” on one side and “Ten Great Movies about Academia” on the reverse. Even after the book display was dismantled, readers could still enjoy the topic.

11. Cross promote. Readers who find your displays interesting might also enjoy your library’s book blog or be interested in resources like NoveList or the NextReads email newsletters. Consider a small sign that points them to these resources. Or, if you add value with a book mark, reference these resources on it.

12. Use Chase’s Calendar of Events judiciously. Many librarians turn to this standard reference work for inspiration for monthly displays. While the list of special months might be interesting (and sometimes hilarious — see Rule #20) and might appeal to our urges to inform and educate, our displays should be popular, not pedantic or preachy. Is it interesting that January is Clean Up Your Computer Month, Glaucoma Awareness Month, and International Creativity Month? Maybe. Were millions of people watching Downton Abbey during January, clamoring for more books and movies just like it? Definitely.

13. Let pop culture inspire your displays. Remember, displays should be popular (Rule #1 and #2) and fun (Rule #20). How about a display of “If You like Downton Abbey” with books and movies? Leading up to the Academy Awards, how about a display called “And the Oscar Goes to…” that features Oscar-winning movies, biographies of Oscar-winning actors, and nonfiction about Hollywood personalities and politics? And seriously, who doesn’t love Shark Week? Leveraging pop culture demonstrates that libraries are fresh, fun, and relevant, not stodgy, serious, or old-fashioned.

14. Let current events inspire your displays. In late 2012, everyone was talking about the “fiscal cliff.” This would have been a perfect time to put up a display of books about personal finance or economics. In the weeks leading up to the election, a “Presidents & Politics” display would have been great, with popular non-fiction about presidents, fictional accounts of presidents, and movies and TV shows like The West Wing, All the President’s Men, or the HBO adaptation of John Adams.

15. Let your community inspire your displays. Is this year the centennial of your town’s founding? Consider a local history display. Is the local theater opening a production of Hair? Consider a display of books about the 1960s that also promotes the production. You can add value (see Rule #10) to a display like this by asking the theater to contribute free tickets for a promotional giveaway.

16. Consider moving beyond tightly themed displays to more general ones that can be used anytime – or continuously:

  • Staff Picks
  • Patron Picks
  • People You Should Meet (this could work for biographies or for character-driven fiction)
  • Greatest Hits of the ____ (insert decade)
  • Good Books You May Have Missed (books that had long holds list a few months ago)
  • 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!)

17. Promote “hidden” collections, but only if they pass muster with Rule #1. One of the most popular displays I ever developed featured National Geographic DVDs. These were “hidden” in our collection, inter-filed with books, and not circulating as well as I thought they should. I knew they would be popular if they were more visible and pulled a few hundred of them for a display. We took it down after only three days – not because it wasn’t popular, but because they had all been checked out (see Rule #2). Note that the sign was quite simple, incorporating the National Geographic logo (see Rule #7).This approach worked with PBS DVDs that were interfiled with books as well. I created a sign with the PBS logo and logos from Nature, NOVA, American Experience, FrontLine, and other popular PBS shows. We gathered all of those DVDs from our collection, and like National Geographic, they flew off the shelves.

18. 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:

19. Be flexible. 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:

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

 And if you are wondering why displays are important at all, I have just two words for you – book discovery. It is the buzzword of the moment for libraries, booksellers, and publishers, with conferences devoted to the concept and new products that aim to make it easier. There are some librarians who will lament that this fancy new buzzword reflects what we have always done – help readers find their next book. However, in an era where readers can find discover books in the supermarket, on their iPhone, via Amazon, and from social sites such as Goodreads and Pinterest, we need to make sure that libraries are engaged in book discovery and consider it a priority. Better book displays are just one way of helping readers discover great books.

The Machine: Using a Raspberry Pi for Readers’ Advisory

Today’s post comes from Matthew Murray, one of the two UBC student representatives with RAIG, a current MLIS candidate at UBC, and someone who’s involved in too many different projects.


A Raspberry Pi is a tiny, low-cost computer that was created to teach young people about computer science and programming. They’ve been embraced by the maker community and are being used for everything from robots to spinning wheels to cellphones to Minecraft servers.


A few months ago I saw a post on Tumblr that showed an “Electr-O-Matic Book Fortune Teller” that used an Arduino (a computer similar to a Raspberry Pi) to print book recommendations onto receipt paper when people pushed a button. This seemed like a relatively easy project for myself and some other students to use to get experience working with a Raspberry Pi.

The first step was setting up the Raspberry Pi itself. Raspberry Pis run a version of Linux that’s a lot less scary than you might think. We messed up our installation, but you don’t have to do that!


Next we had to set up the mini thermal printer (we bought ours from Adafruit). This involved cutting and stripping some wires, then screwing them into a DC power adapter so we could plug the printer into a power source. Then we installed the printer driver onto the Raspberry Pi.


Once we did that we connected the printer to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins using the included wires and printed off a test page.


Actually, first we wondered why nothing was working once we’d hooked everything up. Turns out you need to plug the HDMI cable into the Raspberry Pi in order to have anything show up on the computer screen. Despite being supposedly intelligent, tech-savvy graduate students, we forgot to do this at least four five times (so far) during this project.

Once we had the printer working we started work on hooking up the button. This is a complicated process that involves:
1. Acquiring a button that doesn’t actually have the necessary connectors.
2. Purchasing the wrong resistors.


Of course you can choose not to follow our steps directly and just get the proper pieces the first time. Either way, you then wire everything into a breadboard and connect it to your Raspberry Pi. (Your breadboard doesn’t have to be quite so long, but we ended up using ten resistors instead of one because we originally had the wrong type.)


You’ll then have to install or create a program on the Raspberry Pi that understands when your button has been pushed and tells the printer to print a review. We’ll hopefully have one available on our blog soon! The reviews for our machine are ones that we wrote and include title, author, and a brief description. You could choose to include other information such as ISBNs or call numbers.

Once all of that is done you’ll have a working machine that will print off book recommendations! You’ll probably want to get some sort of box to put everything in, but we’re still working on that.


We haven’t completely finished this project yet, but we’ll be posting updates (and eventually complete instructions) to the ASIS&T at UBC blog! In the future we might expand the machine so that it will have more than one button to allow readers to pick from different genres, moods, or other qualities (books with covers the colour of the buttons?)


We’ll be showing off our machine at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire on June 7th-8th at the PNE, you should come by and check it out!

Throughout the month of May students from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will be posting their best Readers’ Advisory tips to the RAIG blog!

Video: Seattle’s David Wright at RA in a Half Day

Did you miss David Wright at our RA in a Half Day Workshop on Oct. 30th? No worries! You can watch the Seattle Public Library librarian’s inspiring keynote on the power of form-based and digital readers’ advisory right here on the What Are You Reading Blog!

This video would make a great training tool, as well as provide persuasive arguments to administration for why form-based and Facebook-based RA is so great. Please stay tuned for more videos from RA in a Half Day, which we’ll post over the next few weeks.

Changes and Ceremonies: RA and Alice Munro

It's all going according to plan...

It’s all going according to plan…

Let’s take a break to discuss a challenge too many of our libraries face — we have run out of copies of books by Alice Munro. Of course, readers eager to experience Canada’s champion writer can always read samples of her short stories online, but that’s not enough for many readers.

Readers’ Advisory for Alice Munro is difficult, and I have a confession: I’m not entirely sure I’ve read a short story of Alice Munro’s unless you count an extract during my English 12 Provincial – which I think is only fair that we do, but I digress. I’ve been playing a grand game of catch-up here, and I’m happy to I share what I’ve found.

Let’s begin with what I knew of Alice Munro as a Canadian who has (probably) not read Alice Munro: She wrote critically acclaimed short stories set in a small town in the… Maritimes? Her stories were mostly about the internal lives of girls and women living in these modest surroundings. The plots of her short stories were more character-driven than action driven, and for some reason I was certain that one of her stories featured a woman who was burnt to death by a lantern.

I was wrong about the Maritimes (Huron County, Ontario is Alice Munro’s jam) but otherwise the bare facts are mostly right. However, the more I’ve read, the more I realized that I had a very shallow understanding of her work. There are many articles that reflect how deeply her readers are impacted by her writing. This article from the Toronto Star is an excellent example, as is this piece from Book Riot. Read-alikes seem almost like a mechanical response to works so particular and personal. And if I recommend Margaret Atwood, how badly will the patron give me the fish-eye?

As individual as Munro’s work is, a list of similar writers can be a useful starting point. Writers recommended by Novelist include Edith Pearlman and Elizabeth Hay. There are also several other recommendation lists to be found online, such as the one on Vancouver Public Library‘s Reader’s Cafe

Non-Fiction is also an option. Halifax Public Library’s Readers’ Advisory Blog has a brief post that discusses supplementary materials for Munro’s works, including biographies and critical essays. One might also consider non-fiction titles and/or memoirs that cover similar settings or issues as Munro’s.

I’ve found in my grand game of catch-up several interesting articles that examine what Munro’s win means for different areas in lit. The Millions has published a Beginners Guide to Canadian Lit and The Globe and Mail took the opportunity to celebrate the short story.

For readers intrigued by Munro more for her critical acclaim than for her style, we can point out Lynn Coady, whose short story collection of Hellgoing has recently won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. For readers looking for other Canadians who won international awards, we could also point to titles like Ondaatje‘s The English Patient, Martel‘s Life of Pi, Atwood‘s Blind Assassin, Shield‘s Larry’s Party, or Michael‘s Fugitive Pieces.

Libraries can also consider programs to bolster Munro-Mania. For instance, the Guildford Branch of Surrey Libraries is featuring a drop-in book club on Alice Munro’s Dear Life.

How would you approach a readers’ advisory interview with a reader new to Alice Munro?

David Wright Revving Up RA in a Half Day 2013

RA in a Half Day, 2013 was kicked off with a friendly welcome from Robbie Burma, Co-Chair of BCLA’s Readers’ Advisory Interest Group and Branch Head of the Mount Pleasant Branch of VPL, who thanked Library Bound for sponsoring the event.

The thrills and chills on this Halloween RA in a Half Day began with David Wright, Readers’ Services Librarian at Seattle Public Library and frequent contributor to NovelList, Booklist, Kirkus, and so many other review spaces. Demonstrating his talents as a reader and celebrating adult story time, he began with a hair raising short story. This treat was followed up by an amazing whirlwind look at innovation, inspiration and collaboration in RA, with a real emphasis on the fact that just doing RA work is innovative! People are ready to be excited and engaged and amazed by these services.


David gave a particularly strong look at Form-based Readers’ Advisory and using social media effectively in Readers’ Advisory. He discussed the advantages of both these methods for encouraging collaboration across staff and even between patrons. Asking on Facebook “What is the saddest book you ever read?” can develop a rich conversation among patrons and librarians. All of these collaborations can be built upon to help show patrons how the library is hearing and responding to their reading interests.

Did Banned Books Week pass you by? Never fear, there’s always Freedom to Read Week!


This week is Banned Books Week (Sept 22-28) and I must confess that I did not put together a display at my library! I’m so used to celebrating Freedom to Read Week in the spring that Banned Books Week often catches me off guard. (Mark your calendars for Freedom to Read Week Feb 23-March 1, 2014).

That said, I’m always game to include challenged or banned books as part of ANY display or reader recommendation. Looking at the titles of the most popular banned books of 2012, I realized that I’ve already recommended the number one banned book in the US of 2012 to a mother and her son this week: The Adventures of Captain Underpants. My Spooky Reads display in anticipation of Halloween has Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories front and centre (see Banned Book #8).

Grab some caution tape, chains, brown paper, and even a bird cage or two if you have them lying around, then grab a few challenged titles, and voila! You still have two days to whip up that awesome display. (Why not declare Banned Books Season?) Check out ALA’s Display Ideas for Banned Books Week for inspiration.

I’d love to hear about the displays and programs that you’ve developed for Banned Books or Freedom to Read Week this year or in previous years. Please leave a comment below!

I found this display image on a blog–it’s certainly attention-grabbing!

banned books body