Display Cases: The New Frontier


Any student or professional in the library field can tell you that it has been a long time since libraries were all about books.  Books sitting unattended in the stacks are not enough to attract a good portion of library users.  Social media, programs, and displays are all ways to draw people in, show off collections, and create an inviting environment.  Emily Kinney and I are student assistants in the Circulation Unit at the New York State Library.  We both have had some hands on experience with programs at NYSL and we manage most of the Facebook activity, but creating the June display case exhibit was a first for us.  Luckily, we were able to work with an interesting topic: Space Exploration.

These are some issues we encountered that would be good to keep in mind:

  1. If you are not really familiar with the collection you are working with, take the time to look through it, get ideas, and develop a plan.  There may be a lot of materials to choose from, and having a precise plan or concept will be helpful.  Emily Kinney made a list of some big events in Space Exploration that happened in June.  This list gave us some idea of how to design the layout of the display, and which images and other materials we wanted to include.  This was helpful considering that we had more than a full cart of images and books which did not even exhaust NYSL’s collection of relevant materials.   After becoming more familiar with the collection, I was able to develop an additional mini Space Popular Culture display.
  2. Be aware of your space.  For our exhibit, we had three large display cases and a row of smaller cases lining the entrance area on the opposite wall.  Once we had some materials pulled, we started to think of how we would lay items out and how much space we may need.  We were able to estimate the room we would need by laying materials out on our desks, but didn’t know for sure until we were able to actually lay everything out in the cases.  After filling the cases, we ended up with some extra events that we decided not to include in the display due to a combination of lack of space and visual appeal.
  3. If you work with others think about how much you work with your partner and come up with a good plan for work to do on your own.  Having a partner or team can be really good for brainstorming ideas, finding interesting items, and reviewing content, but if you rarely get to see your partner or group it can be difficult to get things going.  On days we worked together, Emily and I got a lot done, but on days when only one of us was in the library we were stalled by decisions we needed to make together.  To help mitigate some of these issues, we emailed, and divided the June Timeline between the two of us so that we could work separately on different events.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when creating a display.  Making displays can be fun, a good learning experience, and a great way to draw interest and attention to your library.


More about the Space Exploration display can be found online at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/collections/space/.

–Written by Emily Wierzbowski and edited by Emily Kinney.

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