More than a display (part 1)

We’ve spent a lot of time this year working on displays in the library. My brilliant boss and I both herald from careers in the classroom so we may have a different outlook on displays from others in the library profession? Or at the very least different experiences?

I would contentiously argue that a display is pointless: in itself it has no meaning. It is merely the hook or outside shell for what you’re really trying to achieve. Any display that is purely for display’s sake will fail (of course it will… because it won’t have an aim).

Ranganathan’s five laws of librarianship were written nearly a hundred years ago in 1931 but I feel they are still relevant today. I also believe the most effective displays are related to at least one of his laws. The brackets below show how his laws can be modernised.

1. Books (information / materials) are for use.

2. Every person their book (information / material).

3. Every book (Information / material) its reader.

4. Save the time of the reader.

5. A library is a growing organism.

The best way to prove show my point is with some examples.

Purpose: showcasing the stock

As part of our push to get more students reading for pleasure, behold… Bookflix. An idea pinched from the Twitterverse. We spent a long time accruing the right books: some purchased, some donated, some pulled from existing stock, some borrowed from our other campus. It was also important that we included a range of authors, content and genres: women, LGBT, BAME, drama, fantasy and so on. This theme has worked brilliantly as a book because students have been able to talk about and recommend the books based on their viewing experiences. We plan to use it on alternate years.

Anecdotally, this display has had more stock borrowed from it than any other stock-based display; hence this update which at least amused me. Since its creation, five or six books have been consistently on loan.

As part of our Christmas display, student and staff were encouraged to write to the library elves to recommend new books for us to source. This resulted in 20+ new items, each of which has paper sash to indicate who recommended it.

(Related to Ranganathan’s laws 1 – 3).

Purpose: stakeholder engagement

A member of staff said this would be a fun regular feature so we enacted his suggestion and visitors to the library or our Twitter feed have a go. We’ve also link it to English and Maths skills some months to support the GCSE team. A monthly turnover is achievable and it’s often a talking point when the new riddles go up.

(Linked to Ranganathan’s fifth law).

Purpose: managing social use of the space

Each of these displays is focused on giving our students something to do when they have down time: break, lunch, free periods, waiting for the bus. Lots of them play games or ask me to join in (I’m very competitive and offer no free passes!). Staff have also engaged with the games, using them as lesson warm-ups or as part of personal and social sessions. Lots of the materials have come from our personal collections because my boss and I both have lofts and cupboards full of junk useful items from our teaching days and the horror that was wet play.

Our Creation Station has proved that students are origami and Lego obsessed. We’ve often used the colouring in to help a student calm down or to distract them from issues. It’s also easy to make the Station reflect college or national events and holidays.

Essentially, these displays have really helped to forge healthy relationships between the library team and students but they’ve also been integral with behaviour management.

I also want to point out that only three people have beaten me at Boggle in the last year.

(Related to Ranganathan’s fifth law).

Purpose: supporting learning outcomes

Granted, this Maths and English display is not the prettiest but it is an example of how we support curriculum teams with student outcomes. It changes monthly to reflect the teaching content of GCSE English and Maths and advertises support and revision activities. We also display our revision stock and this is very specific: we choose guides that cover the monthly themes and also indicate which pages have relevant activities. I’ve recently learned that this process can be called surfacing – bringing some of the stock out of its normal place and putting it in the foreground.

(Related to Ranganathan’s fourth law).

This display was focussed on our Horticulture and Arboriculture students. The plant matter was from around campus and we coupled it with the plant and animal pamphlets specifically used for identification. Not only did it demonstrate the stock (Ranganathan’s first and third law), it also supported students with learning outcomes as this was the time of year their coursework entailed identification work.

(Ranganathan’s second and fourth laws).

Purpose: promoting services and guerrilla marketing!

There are many spaces around campus that attract students or offer them somewhere else to study; the HE room is one such space. I now visit regularly to tidy it up and display our services. The examples above include support leaflets for our digital content and what the library does over the exam season to help students.

During our Love Your Library campaign and Reading Ahead (national promotion of reading for pleasure), we delivered materials to many public areas: Costa, English classrooms, photocopier room, toilets and the post room. We also delivered paper flowers and signage to reception when the reception staff were at a meeting so that they returned to decorated desks. Slowly but surely, we’re trying to take over the campus. In a good way, not like a virus.

(Supports Ranganathan’s fifth law).

Purpose: engaging with our community.

A stunning display by my colleagues at the other campus. These books were made by students as part of their level 3 art and design course. The library then exhibited them and integrated some of our own stock. It was a brilliant way of supporting students and academic departments, at the same time as driving up footfall to the library because people came to see them.

(Ranganathan’s second, third and fifth laws).

Purpose: promotion of services

Rather than telling the staff and students all about what the library can do for them, we ran a month long campaign in February called Love Your Library. Staff and students were encouraged to participate in various ways, including by leaving us love notes! The whole library was saturated with homemade paper flowers and love hearts – it was a display that visitors couldn’t fail to notice.

(All of Ranganathan’s laws).

I’ll have some additional examples for part 2.

One thought on “More than a display (part 1)

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