It’s In The Details

By Shannon Kazmierczak

We have all read articles about eye catching displays and fun ways to market our collections in the public library. These are as important of a part of the library as just having the materials themselves.

We know they work, too!  We have had our Staff Picks display up and found that our patrons really do value our opinions. We also have a Fresh Finds display, which is a book shelf that showcases our recently returned items which is a popular pick. We have award winners in our Youth Services and YA section, and of course seasonal displays of books in Adult Services and DVDs/records/cds in our AV section.

If we can’t come up with original ideas there are so many resources out there to use, like Pinterest boards devoted to displays where we all steal–I mean, borrow–ideas from one another. We want to entice our patrons to come into the library and give them passive suggestions about what to read, because shockingly, there are people out there who don’t want to talk to us…?

The library where I work does a pretty good job on keeping these displays fluid and interesting and doable. They are not over the top, but just eye-catching enough and easy-ish to put up and take down.

We do have one area in our library, though, where we don’t hold back – we refer to it as: the ceiling.

When our library was renovated and added onto more than a decade ago, the architect thought it would be a great idea to have the first floor lobby open up to an atrium that the second floor overlooks. They might not have thought about noise levels, air flow, etc, but it does make for a dramatic entrance and large space that draws up the eye. Which used to be nothing.

Then a few of my very creative, crafty and hard working coworkers saw opportunity! They saw the possibility of adding something to fill the void, and they were able to make some really magical things happen.

We have had real umbrellas with sparkling drops of rain fall down in the spring; we have had giant candy canes and treats (pictured) floating amongst life size scales of gingerbread men during the holidays; we have had large word bubbles highlight comic book “zaps” and “pows” during our annual Fan Fest; and our summer reading program always is thematically in sync.

What the ceiling displays have done, other than welcoming patrons, is created a sense of consistency with an element of surprise. Patrons come in each season, wondering: what’s next?  And, “how on earth were you able to get those all the way up there?” The best sounds to hear when up on the 2nd floor are when the littlest patrons come in to “ooh” and “ahh” and yell “pumpkins” while pointing to the ceiling.

Creating a welcoming environment through these non-book displays became even more valuable knowing that there were several people cross-departmentally who made it happen.  The designer had to make sure the size and scale was correct, the maintenance person needed to make sure the air lift was working on the designated day, and the originator of the concept had to make sure that all of these little pieces were going to fit together! 

I’m not going to sit there and say my co-workers are better than yours. . .but this community is pretty lucky.

Creating Displays that Engage and Delight

By Susan Dennison

Displays: they can either be delightful or drudgery, depending on how you see them. We pile books on tables based on who recently died, current events, hot reads and other clever categories that staff invent. And these types of displays work – many readers have discovered a new author or book here.

But what if our goal for displays was to engage our visitors, to delight them with the unexpected?

Here’s how we did it.

A young member gets her picture taken with Bernard the Card.

Bernard the Card

At Indian Trails Library we launched our first “dynamic” display with our own creation: Bernard the Card. Crafted of foam core, Styrofoam, acrylic paint and children’s clothing, Bernard was designed to greet people when they entered the library. He quickly became a favorite of children who wanted to hug him. He’s been thematically dressed for our gardening program and Halloween.

One Book, One Community

For our One Book, One Community (OBOC) program, we created a diorama with features from Jamie Ford’s Love and Other Consolation Prizes. It encouraged our members to see the novel in a different way and get them excited about OBOC programs and the author visit.

Sometimes things disappear on displays, so we learned how to protect them.

Women’s History Month

Women’s History: One of our most popular displays.

This display was a feast for the eyes, with art and props acquired from craft stores and Etsy and made in our makerspace. By promoting a theme for the month, we drew attention to the many programs and resources we had on women’s history.

Summer Reading

Mark E. was our display for our summer library adventure – ILA’s iREAD “It’s Showtime at Your Library.” We modified our logo to become Mark E., the ticket taker at the show. This display generated awareness of the summer reading program.

Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market: Aleksandra Terlik (L) and David Wright are the creative team behind our displays.

Our most expensive display to date, as we purchased the stand, which we will repurpose for other displays. This display was also a learning experience as the fruit was so realistic, children tried to eat it. We ended up putting resin over every loose berry and leaf and moving the display upstairs to the adult section.

If you want to challenge yourself to create these types of displays, here’s what we learned.

  1. Time
    It takes more time than you might expect to create a display. Staff need uninterrupted time to design, prep and assemble the display. Each display takes about a week to complete.
  2. Passion and creativity
    I haven’t contributed anything to the displays, other than, “Looks awesome!” because the desire and creativity to build them are not my strengths. Luckily, I have staff who love this kind of work. If you assign this to a staff member, make sure it is something they care about.
  3. Money
    Most of our displays average around $50 in cost, which isn’t too expensive. We try to reuse as much as we can from previous displays. We showcase 10-12 displays a year.
  4. Destruction and Protection
    By the time Bernard the Card was removed from the lobby, he was in desperate need of care. His “back” was breaking; his gloves had chocolate on them and his arms were coming off. He was very well-loved, but not meant for the handling he received.  When we installed the One Book, One Community display, we quickly learned that many of our miniatures were disappearing. We purchased a 5-sided 20” by 20″ cube to cover the display.
  5. Consistency
    We change the displays about once a month or so and except for the Farmer’s Market, we keep them in the same place. If there are delicate parts to the display, it is built to fit our protective cube.

Seeing people stop and look at the displays or receiving a comment from a member about a display makes me smile. I know the work staff has put in to create these moments of magic for the library and knowing our members are enjoying these displays makes it all worthwhile.