Display Etiquette 101

December 5, 2023
Amanda Wussow, MLIS
Display Etiquette 101

Sometimes as librarians, we need to market our older collections to our patrons. What better way to do this than with a book display! There’s just something extra special about a themed display of older materials, highlighting those that might need more attention than the shiny, new ones. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your displays and bring your patrons’ attention to what they may be missing out on.

Location, Location, Location

Make sure you place your displays in areas that get a lot of traffic and visual attention. You can create one large display centrally located in the department and/or smaller displays distributed across the department. Utilize all of your power aisles, endcaps, and small tables.

Know Your Audience

If you place a display in the children’s area, don’t include adult books. Seems like common sense. There are times, however, when you may have a common area where you might be able to display books for every age. Just be aware of the materials you will be putting out there. Also, as with all librarians, it’s essential that you understand your community and your patrons. If you’re in Georgia, you probably don’t want a display on the history of California.


As librarians, we know our patrons have different interests. While keeping with the theme of the display, try to include plenty of different formats. Have some DVDs on the topic, include audiobook versions, and even music CDs. There is most likely a patron that doesn’t care for reading physical books but loves audiobooks. By including a variety of formatting, you’re sure to also include all your different types of patrons. Try to incorporate downloadable formats into your display, too!

Timely & Relevant Topics

I’ll state the obvious first – don’t do a Christmas display in June. Make sure your displays are timely. This is a great time to whip out your Chase’s Calendar of Events book. What’s going on that month? It’s also important to take into consideration what might be happening more locally or within your library. Maybe you’re having a writer’s workshop? You could display materials pertaining to writing. Stay ahead of “in” current events and trending pop culture!

Signage and Props

Make your display interesting and visually appealing. The signage should be catchy, with appropriate graphics, as well as clear and consistent. Keep the wording to a minimum, and make sure it’s large enough for all patrons to see and read. Use stands or boxes to pop out some books. This will create depth and perspective. We know that patrons are more drawn to a book if they see the cover, not the spine. The more front-facing books you get on the display, the more successful it will be. You can also include fun items and printouts to catch patrons’ eyes. If it’s a travel display, put a globe out. Place some antique suitcases out.

Easy to Find

This may be tricky for some library systems, but the best practice should be making the materials easy to find for patrons. What if a patron is looking for a specific book that just happens to be on display? How will they know where to find it? In the online catalog, it would be best for it to say that it was on display instead of on the shelf. The patron might miss out on the material if they don’t know where it is. DO NOT keep a cart of display books in your work area, away from the patrons. No matter where the book is, if it’s available for checkout, they need to have access to it and to be able to find it.


Have fun with your display! When you create something that the patrons can be a part of, they are actively engaged in the collection and the library. Do a “Blind Date with a Book” display and include a slip of paper that they can fill out rating their date. Maybe if they fill it out and bring it back, their rating could be entered in a giveaway of some sort. You could do an interactive poetry display for April. Have a board next to the display with magnetic words so patrons can create their own poems.

Wide Selection

As librarians, we know how much work it can be to create a specific list of materials for a display. Some topics are easy, but some are a bit tricky. Ingram is here to help! Did you know that we’ve created some of these lists for you? As a customer, you have access to our Virtual Book Displays for adult, children’s, and teen! We create new lists monthly, and you are free to use them!

Display Etiquette 101
Amanda Wussow, MLIS

Amanda Wussow, MLIS

Collection Development Librarian

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