How to Spruce Up Popular Materials & Book Displays

Humans are visual creatures. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. It stands to reason that the individuals visiting your library are also making decisions based on aesthetics and appearance. They’re judging books by their covers, determining what they want to do at your library and how long they want to stay based on what they see and feel. Which brings me to this question: How compelling are your book displays?

When it comes to book displays that positively WOW your customers, marketers and retailers are among your best teachers. A McKinsey & Company study reported 40% of people are influenced by something they see, learn or do in a store environment.

The fact is your library patrons are consumers at heart. Visual cues, such as branding, displays, placement and interactions with staff influence their “purchasing decisions” — the materials they check out or programs they attend. (See Display Smarts — Retail-style Merchandising Sells Popular Collections.)

In other words, your library’s space and displays are your most productive and most efficient “salesperson.”

Flexibility & Mobility

In retail, displays change faster than the seasons. Adaptability is key since customers respond to newness. As a result, you want book displays that move and are easy to reconfigure. Maybe you want to generate more foot traffic in another part of your library? Do you want to temporarily put a display outside to attract passersby on a nice day?

Displays on casters let you move a subset of your collection wherever you like, whenever you like. Try organizing your displays around popular items or your staff’s top picks.

Think Beyond Books & Stacks

While we’ve been talking about book displays here, please don’t take this too literally. Your “book” displays need not be limited to books alone. Pull in other media too — CDs, DVDs, art and props. Well-designed posters or signs also create attractive focal points and emphasis.

With today’s flexible displays, even poles, awkward areas or small spaces can work to your advantage. A frequently updated digital display near the entrance of your library can draw patrons in too.

Winning Book Display Ideas by Age

Below are age-specific display considerations to help you hit the mark with students or patrons.

Children’s Displays:

  • Get low — Decrease display height so that kids can browse materials themselves. Pull out drawers on the bottom level work well too.
  • Have fun — Cute, whimsical displays draw in kids like nothing else, making reading exciting and playful.
  • Be active — Make your displays interactive with LEGOs®, felt and Velcro characters, markerboards, activity boards, etc. End panels are also a prime location to do something unexpected.


  • Speak teenager — Teen displays need to click with teens. Reach out to teens in your community or your teen advisory board to find out their interests. Then, create rotating displays about popular themes.
  • Use video games as bait — Boys, especially, but a growing number of girls, enjoy playing new video games. Why not strategically arrange video games with other items in your collection? In a single display, combine games with other materials, most notably books on the same topic as the video game.
  • Make it cool — Don’t try to cobble together random displays. Do it right with coordinated and creative display options, such as cubes, sign holders, easels and bookends.


  • Begin with observation — What are the most frequent places adults visit in your library? What are they looking for? (See Wayfinding Series: Part 3 of 4 Creating a Signage Plan Through Observation for tips on tracking hot spots in your library.)
  • Create some drama — Many of your patrons view going to the library the same way they view grocery shopping: they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Some patron utilization studies show 56% of visitors spend less than 10 minutes in the library. Your displays have to have stopping power. Get ideas from local boutiques or retailers known for imaginative displays, such as Anthropologie.
  • Play with scale — Having a good mix of feature displays in a range of sizes and styles creates interest and nicely highlights your materials and programming.
  • Stir up emotions — One of the things retailers have mastered is how to create emotional connections. After all, if a person feels a certain way about a product, he or she is more likely to be interested in it. The same applies for getting patrons to “shop” your collection. If your displays resonate with people on an emotional level, they will stop and take a look, and perhaps go home with something unexpected.

You can generate emotion with displays based on your color scheme, choice of graphics and words.

Stealing moves from retailers’ visual merchandising strategies can help your library gain visibility, attract patrons and increase circulation. Browse our idea gallery to see fresh ideas and proven display solutions in action!


Julie Hornby

Julie Hornby

Julie is a Demco Product Manager, specializing in furniture. She looks at the latest library seating trends and adjusts product lines accordingly. With her eagle eye for details, she prioritizes quality and performance. Julie has been with Demco for more than 15 years, excelling at new product development and merchandising. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.