Three Summer Savers

In the almost-decade that I’ve worked at a public library (how the heckie-pooh did that happen?!), I can unequivocally state that summers are, at their mildest, hectic. And over time, our Children’s Library team has come up with a couple of simple time-savers/stress-reducers that I thought I should share to hopefully help someone else out there.


This evolved from a tip that I learned from this ALSC blog post by Abby Johnson many years ago (and which I implemented at our library). We have one spot in our Children’s Library where we make themed displays throughout the year – except in June and July. This year we even skipped having a sign that mentions in a theme-related way that these are popular books in our community. Did it affect our circulation of those items? No. Have patrons complained that the don’t get the concept? No.

And hey – if you’re a larger library that has plenty of titles to fill up summer-themed displays? Then go for it! For us, it takes one family to check out all of the theme-related books in our collection, therefore we’d rather keep the space dynamic with items almost constantly moving. It also majorly helps us out on shelving since we throw whatever we grab up into the empty spots and it looks great. Hooray for face-outs!!!

If you try this then you may be amazed at how many people think that you carefully curate the just-returned items. It’s also a lot of fun to tell a patron who compliments these “displays” that it’s actually the community and patrons like her who are the designers.


Does Hafuboti regret this really bad Salt ‘n Pepa pun? No. No she does not.

If your library happens to keep its books, or other things like DVDs flushed, then this tip is for you. If your library doesn’t do this, then you’re only getting two tips from this post. ::trombone wah-wah:: Now I’ve heard other terms for the practice of bringing the books’ spines up to the edge of the shelf, but “flushing” is what I learned when I worked at a bookstore years ago, and that’s what’s stuck with me. You bring the items flush to the shelf’s edge.

Within a few months of working at my library, I came to the conclusion that flushing DVDs was a Sisyphean task. I asked our Director if we could just push back all of the DVDs to save time while also keeping the shelves looking neat and orderly. Thankfully he said yes. And so for years we have enjoyed not flushing that section.

Cut to a few years ago: keeping items flush at the Children’s Library can be a weekly challenge to say the least, but in the summertime it felt nearly impossible. That’s when I was like, “Wait. We’ve been here before.” And after discussing the pros and cons (the conniest being that it makes the spines a little less easy to see), we checked with our Director and she said to go for it!

Now every year on the last day of school, we go through and joyfully push back all of the Junior Fiction, Early Reader Fiction, and Junior Graphic Novels.

And when school’s back in session (or even a little before that depending on how busy it is or isn’t), we go back to flushing.


Sometimes we run out of space on our reshelving cart(s), and then items start to pile up on our back counter. The last time this majorly happened to us was four years ago during the summer. I came up with this improvisation back then, and it wasn’t until this year that we needed to do it again (and for more sections than just our Picture Books).

I created and printed out a few signs, then put the ready-to-be-shelved items on top of the lower bookcases, and finally attached the signs to the bookends that were holding up the books. This year we even needed to do this in the movie section! Here’s a photo depicting (and recreating) what I’m trying to explain:

It’s a simple sign with an emoji letting library patrons know that their library is used. Like, a lot. Also, if you look closely, you can see the books are shoved back on the shelf just below the to-be-shelved books.

You’d be surprised at how many of those items would check out – especially in the Picture Book section. And once we had more than a few minutes of quiet, we went and shelved those items like the wind. We do have a very part time library page, but she has to rotate between our two library buildings. If we had never gotten a quiet time for us to get the excess shelved, then at least we would have helped her in terms of getting the items to the correct areas for her next shift at our library.


Here’s a set of the signs I created for you to download and print if/when you need them. It should hopefully save you some time if you’re rushing around trying to get things done. Click on each image to get a non-logo’d version of the respective sign.

And there you have it: three of our tips!

Do you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share? Feel free to email me even if it seems like something obvious. You never know what will be a revelation to someone out there. I mean, looking back it seems incredibly obvious that we should shove back our often shoved-back books just like we do with our DVDs. You just never know.

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