Be brave! Go front-out!

A colleague over on the OZTL_Net listserv asked about making her high school library look more like a bookshop, with more of the book covers facing outwards to entice readers. She specifically mentioned those old brown library shelves, with their stodgy, flat canopies, and her unsuccessful efforts to use them as display areas. Does putting an angled display shelf in its place mean overcrowding below?

Sure, I said, if that’s all you can manage to do, it’s better than nothing. But I also suggested combining her new arrangement with a savage cull of old books. Crowded spine-out shelves are very uninviting, and it’s the front-out books that will be moving, while the spine-out books will no doubt get ignored by most browsers. There’ll be less books, but the borrowing figures will surely rise!

Kevin Hennah, at the wonderful PD day I attended in 2007, heartily recommended ridding all libraries of their antiquated, flat-top canopy shelves. Wherever possible, he suggested shelving that encouraged front-on displays. There are some library furniture catalogues around that have beautiful box-shaped tubs, rather like the old-style LP record bins, for picture books and large format, fully-illustrated non fiction.

In libraries with very limited space, or limited budgets, he recommended slant boards (even homemade), that could cover plain, unused shelving bay ends and turn them into attractive display spaces for cover-out books. In my primary school library, I had to be even more frugal. I knew we couldn’t justify spending money on slantboards – but I found a range of Japanese plastic wares in a chain of stores (called Hot Dollar), such as hooked baskets and funky, colourful, little magnetic boxes. I also made much better use of two existing spinner racks – it’s impossible to keep them filled! Front-on displays make books *move*!

Even assemble-it-yourself wheeled plastic trolleys, also from a “two dollar bargains” store, filled little corners of the library with useful front-on display space. I swapped the slanted display shelving of several old portable magazine racks to convert a set of standard wall shelves into display shelves. Click here for more amazing results!

Can you tell I’m just itching for my new library to be built?