Close reading V: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

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Chapter five: Reader-centred promotions

Displays used to take up an inordinate amount of my time: thinking about them, resourcing them and then, finally, putting them all together. And then I watched this video and read this book. Putting the reader back at the centre of things sure makes putting displays together easier!

It’s not rocket science, but sometimes it is good to be reminded about what matters in a display – and what does not.

  • Offer manageable choices – tempt readers with a few titles (I’ve been averaging somewhere between 6 and 10), then users are not overwhelmed with choice.
  • Keep displays stocked up – keep a stack of suitable books nearby so that as books are taken others can be quickly put in their place; empty displays are not appealing and revolving book covers keep the display looking fresh.
  • Emphasis should be on the books – stop concentrating on the surrounding props, they’re taking up valuable book space!
  • Displays should be an integral part of the day-to-day routine – whether it’s checking main displays look fresh, turning books face-out on shelves, or planning a new display, by doing a little bit every day things are kept manageable and at the forefront of attention.
  • Look at displays from your users’ point of view – what will they connect too? what will engage them? what do they like? Start building displays from their perspective (eg, don’t tell students reading is good for them, tell them it’s bad for them!).
  • Open up reading choices – create displays that put together different authors, genres and formats. This provides opportunity to surprise and delight your users, and makes it easier to have plenty of books to keep your display fresh.
  • Learn from retail approaches to displays – while libraries don’t have multiple copies of titles, we can learn from bookstore merchandising techniques. Think colour ways (related or contrasting), placement, and simplicity.

Lastly, I think this quote from page 179 is a valuable one to remember – whether you are an expert at creating vibrant displays or not.

The user experience in any library will depend more on the staff who create it than on any other factor.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • work on creating new reader-centred book displays every month
  • create a “bank” of reader-centred display themes


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.


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