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Volume 10, Issue 3, Spring 2010(2)

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Increasing Circulation with Book Displays

by ECL Book Display Group

In the new academic “Learning Commons” world, the frontline staff are key library assets. Every day the library is open, they note patron behavior and usage of the library space and resources.  Since East Campus Library opened in August 2008, frontline staff have observed and analyzed patron behavior patterns in the new building. During the summer of 2009, the ECL Book Display Group (a group of interested ECL library assistants and librarians) piloted two simple marketing initiatives in an attempt to increase circulation by making books more visible in the first floor space. 

At JMU Libraries, as elsewhere in the academic library world, book circulation had been on the decline.  While books must compete with other library resources, such as journal articles, videos, and online reference materials for users’ attention, they remain vital to the library’s mission. 


The first initiative focused on shifting the Browsing Collection, a rotating group of about 500 titles made up of bestsellers and popular fiction and nonfiction. This collection faced into a comfortable reading area, but was largely invisible to most library patrons.  The ECL Book Display Group reconfigured the shelving to increase space and change the orientation (back-to-back shelves with books facing the lobby as well as facing the reading area) which doubled the available space for displaying books.  Talk about a win-win!

ECL Browsing Collection before move ECL Browsing Collection after move
ECL Browsing Collection before (left), and after, with shelves rearranged to increase visibility.

Analysis of book checkouts from the browsing collection each month since ECL opening showed a dramatic increase in checkouts after the shelving was moved in late August 2009.

Browsing Book checkouts chart

East Campus Library monthly total checkouts of browsing books since library opening (8/08).  Red indicates checkouts since shelving was reconfigured to face inside the lobby area. 


The Browsing Collection now shares space with a New Books display.  With the additional space provided by the back-to-back shelving, staff were able to follow up on a desire to highlight our newest acquisitions for the general circulating collection.

ECL Book Display Cabinet
Book display space at East Campus Library.

The second marketing initiative undertaken was to create rotating book displays with varying themes throughout the semester to highlight books in the general collection. Themed book displays started in August 2009, with a display focused on the freshman summer reading assignment.  Typically about 60 books are displayed along with a print and digital sign to draw attention.

Books chosen for display are obviously selected because they have visual appeal and tend to relate to a cogent theme like green transportation or seasonal cooking; thus, they would be expected to have a higher checkout rate in comparison with the overall collection. Checkout rates for books displayed in these exhibits in the first four months of the initiative do show almost tenfold increase in circulation as compared to the general collection.  Although it may not be a truly fair comparison, due to specifically selecting books with visual appeal, these statistics do give some indication of the value of marketing books from the general circulating collection in a highly visible location. 

The table below shows checkout statstics for ECL's rotating book displays from August through November, 2009.

East Campus Library Book Display: Checkouts



Total Books

% of Total






Green Energy, DNA





Green Energy, DNA





Alternative Transportation





Cookbooks, Alternative Transportation

Display Checkout Average




ECL Displays

ECL Checkout Average




ECL General Collection

The ECL Book Display Group's efforts show that even minor adjustments that increase the visibility of collections can have a major impact on book use.

Reba Leiding, Editor

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