My 3 worst children’s book displays

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  1. Football fiction
  2. Enid Blyton
  3. Kate Greenaway and Carnegie Medal shortlists

Displays are usually a good way to promote children’s books and you can measure their success by how often you have to keep topping them up. These three displays were hopeless as the books hardly moved at all.

You’d think football stories would be popular, especially with boys, but they never seem to get borrowed from our library. The children were more interested in taking home the laminated badges I made of Aston Villa, West Brom, Wolves and Birmingham City for the display than they were in the books themselves. All I can think of is:

  • the books aren’t funny, scary or exciting enough
  • children aren’t stupid and they know Theo Walcott and David Beckham didn’t really write the books
  • kids would rather play football than read about it

The Enid Blyton issue is a bit different. Lots of single author displays work well, especially if they’re tied in with a film like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books in the summer, but the Blyton books were ignored. Even when I mix her books with others in a general adventure books display she isn’t popular. I loved her books as a child so perhaps I’m a bit biased and should just admit defeat and move on.

I was really disappointed that my display of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Carnegie Medal shortlisted books last year didn’t really work. The display was full of lovely books but only a few were borrowed. (Exactly the same happens with displays of book prize shortlists in the adult section.) I think I was expecting parents to pick up the books for their children because they’d been judged so highly, but it just didn’t happen. Perhaps it’s because

  • people are suspicious of literary prizes, thinking there’s a bit of snobbery involved and the books won’t be very accessible
  • the books that appeal to the judges are less attractive to children
  • the books covered a wide reading age so the display wasn’t focused enough

Should I just give up on these books or can you suggest other ways for me to promote them?


6 thoughts on “My 3 worst children’s book displays

  1. hafuboti

    It’s oh-so painful to have “display flops.” But, they happen. I try and remind myself that even though the books weren’t circulated, at least the public was made aware that we have these books available. Kids are particularly tricky because they might not be in the mood. Our cat books are generally rather popular, but when we highlighted them for a month, not a single one checked out.

    You could try tying-in your display books with the children “earning” something (something simple like a sticker) and that might boost the circulation – turn the circulation into a game. We’re trying this for the first time this month, and of the two library games that we have – it’s the circulation one that’s not as popular.

    Overall, it’s a good idea to be aware of what displays are working, and what’s not working – but not to obsess over it. I really try and focus on the fact that if the display is creatively designed (but seemingly unpopular), then hopefully the children (and parents) will be inspired by the creativity. And again, you’re planting the seed of “wow, they have a great variety at the library.”

    1. blackcountrylibrarian Post author

      Yes, I suppose it does showcase different books even if they don’t get checked out. I like the idea of making the circulation into a game! Thanks for your positive thoughts – at least the displays make the library look more interesting!

  2. Stan Bloxham

    Enid Blytton is now too dated.
    Carol Anne Duffy and other prize winners? aaah! may be a lot of parents/children who go to library are a bit intimidated by what they may view as literary stuff. Damn shame that. Well to do parents may BUY them for their kids. It’s a class snobbery thing.
    Football/sports books. Yes if you’re interested in sports you’ll buy the strip/trainers/bats/balls and play, but probably not read about it. You may indulge your hero worship by watching the players at a game or on tele, but who wants to sit and read about them!?

    1. blackcountrylibrarian Post author

      Yes, I think I must stop trying to force Enid onto today’s children! Interesting what you say about the prizes – perhaps I should display them in a more subtle way? Some of them are lovely. And I think you’re right about the football books – I think the publishers have got it wrong.

  3. MsVal313

    I have had trouble with Sports displays. The kids just wander by them. They might pick one up and look at it but they rarely check it out. Last year I did a display where I wrapped books in paper bags to hide what they were. I made a huge sign that said: “I double dog dare you to check out one of these books!” The books had a clue written on the front that would say Mystery or something clever to perk interest. It was a hit. Of course this was a school library and it meant they could have an extra check out if they tried one of my books. I could see this working at a public library since there are more check outs. I did a mix of old and new books. I had several children become fans of Nancy Drew and the Boxcar children after that display!

    Publishers are a bit off the mark. I agree that kids want to play and not read about sports. I have noticed that kids read in trends. Some months all they read are car books and other months that shelf is a lonely place.

    1. blackcountrylibrarian Post author

      I’ve heard of this “blind date with a book” idea before, though not for children – sounds like it might work. And I love your idea of treating it as a dare! Isn’t it great when a child falls in love with an author?!


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