Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Displaying books in libraries

The display of books and items in public library collections not only provides library users the opportunity to discover the range of collections and items held in the library but also the opportunity to extend their use of the library by expanding the range of material or authors they normally borrow.

The Front Line course encourages librarians to look at the range of material in their collections, discover links between collection items and promote items in an interesting and eye-catching way. The emphasis of the exercise is books but the same principles could be extended to other collection media.

One exercise encourages the librarian to take a selection of books, from different collections within the library, that may be linked by a theme and then display the collection in a prominent space in the library. Over a week the uptake of books in the display is recorded noting additional browsing of books in the display area as well as the borrowing of the material.

One experiment was selecting books from different parts of the non-fiction collection including the music scores plus a small selection of fiction. The link in this exercise was the covers - primarily red and white with a little black on some. The result was a dramatic display which caught the attention of patrons when they entered the library. As it was in the non-fiction area it may have encouraged some patrons to explore a little further into the building that they might normally do.

Thinking laterally a variety of theme related displays could be created using books from different collections to entice readers to try something new. Although fiction books in libraries are often classified in broad genres, each genre can usually be subdivided with patrons normally reading different sub genres of books. Crime fiction is one example. Crime fiction can be police procedurals with the plot unfolding with the investigation of the crime. A popular sub genre has been detective based - private or amateur detectives as well as those in the police force who may not follow strict procedures. Contemporary crime fiction is often based around the work of pathologists and other medical or scientific investigative staff. Another trend in contemporary crime writing is the story being revealed by providing viewpoints from a variety of characters - often the perpetrator, the victim, other suspects as well as the person solving the crime. Crime novels can be graphically violent with suspense a key element. In contrast another sub genre has been referred to a 'cozies' where violence is minimised and the writing tends on the humorous. In most crime novels the plot is usually the focal point of the book with the development of the characters being a minor aspect. It may be a stand alone book or form part of a series. Series of crime books usually place more emphasis on the characters in the book and in some the crime is the vehicle for continuing the story of the main characters. Crime fiction can also be subdivided by the country or part of the world where it was written - Australian crime fiction, Scandinavian crime fiction, British crime fiction. Crime novels gained popularity in the nineteenth century and to some extent can also be sub divided according to the period in which it was written.

Part of the course has been not just been to investigate the type of books people consider a good read but the reasons why patrons choose books. A patron may choose crime novels because of the suspense but there can also be suspense in some historical novels, or science fiction or fantasy titles.

We know that crime fiction is a popular genre and the library has many books in the category in the spinners devoted to paperback crime fiction, crime fiction shelved on the A-Z Adult Fiction shelves as well as many crime titles in the Bestsellers section. However in the non-fiction there is also a section for 'true' crime and a selection of books from all these areas could be used as well as books in the the literature section on crime writing, including novelists and also books about films with a crime theme.

Similarly romance books are located in the spinners devoted to paperback romance fiction, romance fiction shelved on the A-Z Adult Fiction shelves as well as many romance titles in the Bestsellers section. In the non- fiction collection many biographies and some books in the history section may be of interest to readers of romance. Books have also been written about writing romance novels as well as romance themes in books on film and music.

One of the aims of this course has been to encourage librarians to consider the way in which they display the material held in the library, including linking material from different collections within the library, thereby encouraging readers to experiment and discover new forms of reading material and / or different authors.

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