Ottawa Public Library "Good Reads" Shelf-talkers: Guidelines for staff

Alexandra Yarrow at Ottawa (Ontario - Canada) Public Library generously provided the following guidelines for staff writing shelf-talkers. - Chris Rippel]
  1. Your branch’s project coordinator will print up some shelf-talkers on cardstock paper and make them available to all branch staff (circ and info). He or she should also give you some basic information about the project (where to leave completed ones for review; where to get blank ones, etc.).

  2. Before you get started, here are some things to keep in mind:

    • The shelf-talkers are aimed to be short and sweet, personalized, highlighting new and old titles in your branch’s collection.

    • Plan out what you are going to write in advance to ensure you will have enough room. We’ve found that somewhere around 30 words is ideal, but it will depend on your handwriting!

    • If you do run out of room, be creative: include a text bubble in the extra space! See example for Special topics in calamity physics.

    • Be sure to include read-alikes for the title, any awards it has won, a personal note (was it your favourite book as a child?), a great review, etc. These things can work especially well when put in a text bubble.

    • Imagine the audience you are writing for: what would grab your attention? A teen’s attention? A parent’s attention? For more ideas, see a few examples of shelf-talker text below.

    • Put your shelf-talker below the shelf upon which the book is located, unless the book is on the bottom two shelves, in which case, put it on the shelf above the book. Use your discretion regarding whether an arrow is needed.

    • We put tape on the top of the flap and attached this to the top edge of the shelf. We also re-enforced the underside of the shelf-talker with a piece of double-sided tape and affixed this to the lip of the shelf. You may decide not to do this so that shelf-talkers can be flipped up by pages when shelving. See for an example of what ours looked like out in the fiction shelves.

    • Use the ones with call # space in top right corner for non-fiction books.

  3. Here are some branch-wide publicity ideas:

    • Order in extra copies (3 or 4) of some titles to highlight with a mini-display in the stacks (face-out).

    • Put a sample shelf-talker on your library bulletin board and/or in a display case and write a note telling patrons to look for shelf-talkers throughout the library.

    • Invite your local community paper to run an article about your branch’s new shelf-talkers.

  4. We recommend that you replace your shelf-talkers with new ones every 2-3 months. Our pilot project lasted 4 months so we could see how circulation dropped off after initial popularity.

  5. Take down the old ones when you make up new ones. Give them to the project coordinator for your branch for storage.