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Sunday, February 10, 2008

BPL Display Lists: Women's Lives

Last March I did a display for Women's History month. As usual for the Berwyn Public Library, the display was accompanied by 2 annotated lists highlighting some of the offerings found on the approximately 75 book display. One is this one on books which highlight the lives of women today, and the other is this one which highlights the lives of female historical figures.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pair your larger displays with ANNOTATED lists. The public library has even more books than the average book store because we also have many of the out of print books. Think of yourself as a reader. There are too many titles to choose from. Anything that breaks up the overwhelming offerings will be appealing to your patrons.

But go beyond just breaking things up for them. You are not simply at the desk to answer the questions that you are physically asked. You are there to help each and every reader who walks through the door whether or not they ever speak to you. Providing 2-3 sentences hinting at the plot and appeal of some of the books on the display will both help them know a bit more about a title in front of them, and, more importantly, illustrate that you care about finding them something to read. You have to be invested in their leisure reading. Annotated list are a way librarians can demonstrate this investment

There is another point I want to make about attaching annotated lists to your displays, which my experiences with creating these lists also proves. These lists can be used to highlight gems which have been lost in the stacks for years. As you can see on my Historical Lives of Women list above, I annotated the title Sally Hemmings. This novel came out many years before the sexual relationship between Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson was proven through DNA. When Barbara Chase-Ribould first published this novel, she was both highly praise and condemned. It has since gone out of print.

About 2 months after we had this display I asked my book club for their suggestions as to titles they would be interested in reading over the coming 6 months. 3 people mentioned "hearing about" Sally Hemmings and wanting to read it. There was proof that my lists piqued my patrons' interests. This past July (2007), we read and discussed the title with much success.

I know it is extra work to annotated your lists, but this little effort goes a long way toward patron satisfaction, and more importantly, toward matching readers with a great leisure read.

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