Imaginative Library Displays – Lucy Chambers, MInfSci, MCLIP, Primary School Library Consultant; CILIP SLG National Committee co-Vice Chair

One of my most enjoyable tasks when I ran school libraries was creating displays. In one of the first primary school libraries I ran the library had an inhospitable layout: it was open plan with a full-width glass wall.  Anything I stuck to this fell off very quickly.  The shelving consisted of deep double-sided units on wheels, where books tended to disappear into the murky depths, making the library stock uninviting.  I placed books on bookstands but needed lively displays to showcase the range of interesting, inclusive and diverse books that the school’s generous budget funded. I had a display board in a corridor, but was not allowed to do my own displays.  These had to be done by someone who would stick to the rules: double-mounted A4 posters in straight lines.  They looked neat but were boring. Children were not encouraged to linger. I can’t see the point of displays that no one actually looks at and are very time-consuming to construct.

I was inspired by Pauline Carr of the Alternative Display Company ( whose workshop at a CILIP SLG conference ( CILIP SLG Conference Read All About It, Arlesford, 2016)gave practical and inexpensive tips for creating displays. All the delegates had a go, however under-confident at first.  We created displays about themes based on book titles, using commonly available mixed materials: scrunched up cellophane, tissue paper, scraps of material, small and large posters, boxes and more.  Pauline did wonderful things with ribbon and solid cardboard tubes.  We all made eye-catching displays, with some planning but minimal effort.  Pauline showed us how to create frames for our boards, how to use posters and book covers not just for information but also for effect and how to create simple 3D designs by manipulating posters. 

My tips for creating exciting displays with minimal time and cost:

  1. Set aside time to change displays regularly.  You could stagger this if you have many boards, so that you have a rolling display timetable. 
  2. Allocate different display boards in your library for different sections: eg non-fiction, fiction, other genres, library clubs
  3. Check school policies on displays.  Some schools may be strict about displays in corridors, but more lenient about those in the library
  4. Plan your display on paper first.  Sketch it out roughly, thinking about the effect you are aiming for.  Are you going to create a frame? What materials are you going to use?  What labelling will you make?
  5. Plan displays based on: promoting particular collections, celebrating dates in the annual reading calendar, school events, authors, book awards, library clubs, curriculum subjects, information skills and more. Knight has interesting ideas for displays and lessons based round themes
  6. Look online for ideas.  Pinterest is very useful, also many blogs.
  7. If you have pupil library assistants give them a board to create displays on
  8. Request a display board outside the library for promotional purposes, eg a corridor, the canteen, the main hall, the entrance hall: showcase what goes on in the library to all visitors
  9. Invest in a heavy duty staple-gun: you will need one to attach thick cardboard tubes or balsa wood. (Don’t let the pupils use it.)
  10. Provide scope for pupils to add their contributions; include pupils’ work, book reviews, art work
  11. Collect packaging material and textured materials such as bubble wrap, textiles, book packing paper etc.
  12. Use colourful cloth to cover a board rather than fiddly sheets of art paper
  13. Use scrunched up materials to create depth; cover them in art paper or cloth: blue for water, green for grass, black bin bags for space…be creative.
  14. Use layering techniques: a background board cloth or cover the whole board with several copies of the same overlapping large poster relevant to your theme; add a cardboard shelf or small book display stands; add captions and quotations, a title for your display. Use large letter shapes 
  15. Link boards using pictures on strings, bunting with messages, large paper arrows…be imaginative.
  16. Create frames of silhouette shapes, or photocopied pictures from the story, or bookmarks at jaunty angles: be creative.
  17. Use IT effects such as augmented reality scanning apps for linking static text to video reviews, for example. 
  18. Use menu holders for pictures on top of bays; raise the height of books displayed on bays by placing them on top of small boxes or piles of thick books
  19. Make use of artistic expertise available amongst other school staff or pupils

Some examples from my libraries

  Pupils selected favourite words read in books at a Readathon and wrote them and reasons for their choices on brick-shaped bits of paper to form a word wall

An eyecatching display about World Book Day books incorporating simple paper 3D effects

Book review ‘leaves’ covering a ‘tree’ made of newspaper papier-mâché. I awarded prizes for the best filled-in ‘leaves.’

A display of book covers about jobs for a primary school Careers Day, incorporating simple borders

Part of a history timeline from Ancient Greeks to the present day, including fashions (across the top), town life (middle) and general books (bottom). The yellow signs indicate the time period. The book display is also related.


Further reading/resources:

Knight, Fran et al. Successful Library Displays: Quick and Easy Library Displays to Promote Reading . 2009. Carel Press.     Also see: Brown, Susan. Twenty rules for better book displays. Retrieved from:

 Twinkl is good for resources:

 See examples of some apps here: Amazing Apps for Primary Schools. (2016). Humphrey, Bev.  School Library Association.

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