Warren library encouraging youngest readers to judge books by covers

Angela LaMar (left) helps daughter Penelope LaMar select books from the new display bins at the Warren Public Library on Monday, Jan. 9, as Penelope’s brother, Spencer LaMar, browses books in the background.
Angela LaMar (left) helps daughter Penelope LaMar select books from the new display bins at the Warren Public Library on Monday, Jan. 9, as Penelope’s brother, Spencer LaMar, browses books in the background. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Jan. 12, 2016.

The Warren Public Library is encouraging its youngest visitors to judge their books by the covers.

It seems to be working.

“Oh, it’s Clifford!” Penelope LaMar exclaims as she flips through a bin of books.

Clifford — and other book characters beloved by the preschool-through-first grade set — is facing forward, at eye level, in new bins being installed at the library.

The idea, library assistant Susan Mills explains, is to let the youngest readers easily see the books’ covers, instead of their spines.

One mom thinks it’s a good idea.

“When we come down here, they gravitate to the ones we can see here and the ones on the table,” says Penelope’s mom, Angela LaMar, pointing to the books standing up — cover facing front — on the tops of the traditional bookshelves and on a table.

The new bins resemble the displays for vinyl recordings that stretched throughout old-time record stores. Two of the eight bins the library purchased are out and filled with books; the remaining bins are still boxed up in the center of the lower elementary area at the library.

“As we have time, we come down, get them out of the boxes, dust them off and put wheels on them, and they’re ready to go,” Mills says. “It’s going to be kind of crowded and confused in here for a few weeks, but I think it will be worth it.”

Mills and library Director Robert Neuenschwander hope to have all of the new bins in place by spring break.

Some series — Clifford books, or the Berenstain Bears, for example — will get their own bins, letting their fans scoop up armfuls of books at once.

Mills got the idea of using the special bins for the easy fiction books from a speaker at the Indiana Library Federation conference in Indianapolis last November.

The speaker, an elementary school teacher, was explaining how her school library had dispensed with the Dewey Decimal System for displaying fiction books and instead grouped them by subject, as in a book store.

She mentioned that the library had also put all the easy books in bins, with the covers facing out.

“And the circulation went up,” Mills says.

She and Neuenschwander had earlier discussed the need to add shelving in the children’s area, and decided instead to buy the bins for the preschool-to-first grade area, and move the traditional shelves in that area to other sections of the children’s room.

The library has approximately 2,000  easy fiction books that will be placed in the bins, Neuenschwander says.

Those types of books, he says, “would be a significant portion of our circulation.”

“Moms, when they come in, they tend to take out 20 at a time,” Mills adds.

Some home school moms check out 40 to 50 books at a time, she says.

To make room for the additional shelves in the older children’s area, a wall of VHS tapes will be taken out of circulation. Those tapes are rarely checked out these days, Mills says.

The library’s website is being completely revamped, Neuenschwander says, a project that will make it easier to update the site to list current library events when it’s completed in February.

Mills is planning at least one new activity to list on the new site.

“Soon, certainly during the winter, I’m going to start having adult coloring time twice a week,” she says.

While adult coloring is a hot trend, Mills admits to just dabbling so far.

“I haven’t gotten into it like some people do, but I might,” she says.