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.