Archives For book displays

Displays, man. I love em’. I just came back from Portland, where I drank IPAs and visited Powell’s City of Books, the largest Independent bookstore in America. My takeaway from Powell’s was not how many books they have, but how many displays they have. They have a ton. Not only in the main areas, but even in the back areas. Almost every large bookshelf had physical displays on the endcaps, whether it be “featured” of “staff picks” or whatever. I would have appreciated them more if my 3-year-old son wasn’t having a fit, but that’s another story.

Working on the Reference Desk, we’ve all gotten this phone call: “I heard this book on NPR…forgot the title…it was about housing in America…” Now I’ve talked about my book display philosophy elsewhere, but I had a sneaking suspicion that a permanent NPR book display would do very well at my library. So, although these displays are a lot of work on the front end –  build the table, create the location, find the books, add the stickers – I gave it a try.

NPR book display

I was right.

Four months ago, I placed 48 books on the display and began tracking them via CollectionHQ “Experimental Placement”. Four months later, those 48 books have generated 323 circulations (including renewals), which is as successful as any display we’ve ever done. But that number – 323 circs – is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve added several books since then, feeding it like a bonfire really. Today, although the physical display only holds about 50 books at a time, there are currently 265 NPR books in our system, 210 of which are checked out, generating circs and renewals as we speak. That means 79% of that collection is checked out, which probably means the turnover rate (circ/books) is insane (well over 6, according to the experiment). As a comparison, our other highest performing collection is the “New Books” section, which has 50% checked out at any given time. Urban Fiction and Graphic Novels are around 25%.

People love popular displays, but they also love carefully curated and interesting displays. People want recommendations from people they trust. Librarians, for example. That’s why “Staff Picks” are a slam dunk and that’s why our Library Reads display is popular. NPR is essentially the same concept – expert picks from author interviews that make the books come to life. Indeed, my personal reading list has expanded!

Logistical FAQs
What does the catalog say for these books? “On NPR Display”. In our ILS, we give them a special location, so everyone knows where they are – especially for patrons. It’s work, but I think it’s worth it.

How do shelvers know where to put them? The ILS says “DISPLAYNPR,” but we also put a small sticker on the spine. The sticker tells the shelver what display it goes on. There are alternative ways to do that.

How do you get the list of NPR books? RSS feed that goes into my Outlook mail every day, into a special folder actually. See NPR’s books site. Tracking the books down is a bit of work, no doubt. Sometimes they are in Cataloging, On Order, checked out, or in the stacks. Luckily, I can do most of this remotely, from my desk.

What happens when the display gets too full? This happens, but not as frequently as you might think.

 

 

img_0366When it comes to book displays at the library, I find there to be two different philosophies or approaches. Most people lean towards one or the other, but not both. First, we have the “Save-a-Book” displays, where we highlight older, less popular books, usually from the regular stacks, usually based on a subject (Puppies, True Crime), a season (Beach Reads), or a heritage month (Black History). I would say the most extreme (and irrational) examples of these”Save-a-Book” displays are books that are about to get weeded (“Last Chance!”), or books that have blue or pink covers (please don’t do that…it really makes no sense).

Second, and less prevalent in libraries, are what I call popular displays (for lack of a better term). These are displays that highlight what people already want or probably want. I’m not talking about bestsellers or books that you automatically get 50 copies of, but popular midlist titles nonetheless. From a process standpoint, popular displays have a completely different workflow. Rather than gathered up after the fact on the back end, these are new books that get ordered to go on the display. They get selected, processed, and cataloged as display items. They can last for a few months to several years, and they require weekly upkeep to weed and keep tidy. They are like a fire, constantly being stocked and fed. They are new, clean, popular, and waiting for the patron when they walk in. And they do incredibly well.

You can probably already tell which one I prefer. I find that subject based displays are hit
or miss at best. They tend to be a lot of work for a little payoff in circulation. While I think most displays should be popular, I also think some displays have an important place in libraries. For example, we do displays for all the heritage months – Black History Month, American Indian Month. That’s important. Or displays that support social justice initiatives (e.g., “Libraries Stand Tall,” a display supporting immigrants). Whether popular or not, those have social value and should be highlighted. Although, as a side note, we should make an effort to represent all people in our popular dimg_0367isplays as well, not just relegated to special months. Let’s integrate displays the best we can. For example, I’m considering a popular “Heard on NPR” book display. Not only will it be popular, it will be relatively diverse as well.

Last thought: in my experience, Staff Picks displays are a slam dunk. Not only are they the best form of readers’ advisory, not only are they fun for staff, not only do patrons appreciate our selections, but they circulate well.