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The Display Must Go On: How We Developed a Display Playbook to Help Guide the Display Process

Displays are my arch nemesis. This wasn’t always the case, but after 22 years working as a YA librarian, I was beginning to feel burned out on displays.

Let’s be honest, displays take a lot of work. There’s planning, creating book lists, and then – what for me is the hardest part – trying to use non-existent art skills to turn an idea in my head into an attractive reality. I have often felt like when I do displays I see a Picasso in my head, but what it gets translated into is the art work of a toddler who can’t color inside the lines because of a lack of fine motor skills. It can be discouraging. It’s another one of those instances where you sign up to be a librarian but don’t realize that you also need to be an artist.

But then a miracle happened: I got assistants who WANT TO DO THE DISPLAYS. It feels like Christmas every day. But coordinating displays between two assistants takes a bit of organization and planning. Organization and planning that I should have been doing all along to be honest. Thus, the display notebook was born (inspired in part by our Circulation staff who also works at coordinating displays between several different people).


Here’s what’s in the display notebook:

Part 1: Display Guidelines


I’m a firm believer that it’s important for all of us to have a basic understanding of what we are doing and why, thus guidelines. The guidelines remind staff to make sure and do some basic checking before completing a display. This includes making sure each and every display contains diverse titles, for example. I rewrote the display guidelines from a previous position to fit the parameters for my new library. You can read them here if you would like: YA Displays and Merchandising 2017

Part 2: The Display Schedule


We have a loosely agreed upon display schedule outlined for the entire year. We change displays every 2 weeks and the schedule lets each staff member know when they are doing displays. Some of the display weeks are already thematically designed. For example, there are certain events, dates or programs that are on the schedule that we know we have to do a display for. Other weeks are open ended. The staff for that display gets to choose their display idea, they just have to have it approved by the department head.

Part 3: A Record of Displays


We take a picture of each display and print them off to be put in the notebook with the dates of the display written on it. This way, we know what displays we’ve done. We can repeat wildly successful ones if we so choose. But we can also look at these displays and fill in any holes that we might notice we have, whether that be a genre or a topic that we haven’t highlighted in a while.

Part 4: Display Ideas


We do have a section in the notebook for displays that we want to do in the future. We also have a Pinterest board where staff go in and pin display ideas. We use both because sometimes you see something quickly online and aren’t in a position to pin it, but can easily print it off. You can see our Pinterest board on display ideas here.

As a side note, doing the displays also helps my assistants develop some better understanding of the YA collection. They are not librarians and they don’t really work with the collection, so building displays helps them learn more about the various titles in our collection. I create a list of titles for each display, but they physically handle each book and get some of the genre, themes, authors reinforced. While helping me do displays, they’re learning more about YA literature and our collection.

This is what’s currently working for my YA department. And look at this display, I never could have made this display promoting our Teen Videogaming program on my own:

displayThe display will go on!


  1. Hi,

    Well this digital display book seems quite impressive. I’d love to check em out!

  2. AlTonya Washington says

    Fantastic Article and Very Timely! My staff just had a discussion (like yesterday) about creating our own Display schedule-we hadn’t discussed keeping a visual record of what we’d done-that’s definitely going to be a part of it.

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