The Student News Site of Trinity University


The Student News Site of Trinity University


The Student News Site of Trinity University


A look into the library’s displays

Photo credit: Matthew Claybrook

Upon entering Coates Library, one encounters a small shelf labeled “Discover” standing resolutely by a pillar and displaying books arranged around a specific theme. Ever wonder how those displays come to be?

“I did the NSO display, all the books in the front, I did [the book arrangement at the bottom of the first floor staircase … ], so we do some creative things sometimes,” said Erika James, reference assistant and arbitrator of the “discover” shelf and other displays. “Someone will just come and turn in a bunch of books on, say, volcanoes, and we’ll say, ‘Hey, this’ll make a good display — let’s put them up.’ Also just listening to people talk and seeing what collections they had.”

The discover shelf draws inspiration from a variety of sources, from students’ individual interests to campus speakers.

“Last year, we had a collection of all the bottles that had been found on campus,” James said. “So [ideas] comes from all different places, and people suggest things, and then some of them are just based on the library calendar. … We did kind of have a tie-in where we did a snake display on the side, because they were having [Harry Greene] come and talk. So yeah, speakers are another good reason we have a display.”

The art of crafting a good display isn’t always easy; different themes see varying and sometimes surprising levels of success.

“The friendship [display] was really popular,” James said. “I can never predict what’s gonna be popular; it’s kind of funny. Displays I think are gonna be popular aren’t, and other displays that I just threw up there sometimes, students will check out a bunch of books. Like the friendship one, people have been really into and have come to me and said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you picked that topic,’ where it was almost kind of random on my end. I’m just thinking about all the first-years and how they’re kinda making new friends, and I kinda got into that, and everybody likes that.”

Previous discover themes have also resonated with students and faculty, like the display connected to the NBC show “The Good Place.”

“We had one with a bunch of philosophy books that students really — and professors too — just checked out a whole bunch,” James said. “And this really surprised me; I would’ve never done that, and that was a suggestion by someone who was in Special Collections who said, ‘Hey, why don’t you do philosophy books, like in “The Good Place” ?’ That was really popular.”

Various levels of planning goes into the discover display: some ideas are more definite while others rely upon James’ fluidity and flexibility.

“We’re going to do a banned book display, concentrating on LGBTQ books because those are some of the most banned in the US right now,” James said. “And then kinda just what comes up. … Sometimes we start weeks ahead, and other times I just see a bunch of books and I’m like, ‘It’s time to change it now.’ ”

Creative displays aren’t just limited to the third floor. Special Collections staff works equally hard on putting together exhibits. The current special collections displays are held in its second floor area — one in the lobby and one in the reading area — and have objects related to Trinity history, according to Colleen Hoelscher, Special Collections librarian.

“Right now we are planning an exhibit in the cases by the staircase on the third floor to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I,” wrote Hoelscher in an e-mail. “That will be installed sometime in October, and will feature vintage postcards and materials related to Trinity students and alumni who fought in the war. Next year is the 150th anniversary of Trinity’s founding, so I’m sure we will have more exhibits coming in the spring.”

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