Face Out Shelving for Children

It's not a secret that I'm a huge fan of face out or "flip-through" shelving for children's libraries.  Face out collections engage users and increase circulation.  If you want kids to connect to collections you need to show them what you have and make materials easily accessible.  Excite them and encourage them to interact with the collection by showing them the colorful and interesting cover designs.  Don't bore them or discourage them with rows and rows of spines.

I know that many in our profession are scared by this idea because they say 1) staff and adults won't be able to find things and/or 2) things will be out of order.  My response to this....

Many may think that spine out display is easier for staff and adults, but it's definitely not easier for or appealing to kids and, to me, the #1 goal for children's libraries is to connect kids to the collection.  And, according to several libraries who have implemented face out, flip-through shelving, it can be easily accessible to adults too.  The key is to think about the system you set up, how you process the materials, etc.

Over the past several months I've been doing a great deal of research on and analysis of picture book and other children's collections.  I've found that with some weeding (sometimes some pretty significant weeding) and transitioning to flip-through shelving, circulation of materials is going up anywhere from 20 - 40%.  If you're looking for some good examples to share with decision makers, the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, IL has had great success.  See their YouTube video for more information.  The Frankfort Public Library District in Frankfort, IL has also reported significant increases in circulation.  Several of my clients are also in the process of transitioning.  A few have already, in a few short months, seen the positive results of both weeding and flip-though display.

When looking for flip-through / face out / bin shelving, there are many products on the market to choose from.  LFI's Biblomodel shelving is one of many good options.  Both Indian Prairie and Frankfort use this type of shelving.

If you're viewing this post, please refer to my 9/24/14 post with the updated resource guide.


  1. Kim, do you have any experience with transitioning from traditional shelving to face-out without having to buy new shelves? Actually changing the shelves themselves?

  2. Hi Katie. Yes, we do a lot of transitioning to face-out by using existing steel shelving. It's a good money saver. Do you know what kind of steel shelving you have (e.g., MJ, Estey, etc.)? Let me know and I can point you to the browser bin shelves that are available for your existing shelving.

  3. Anonymous4:40 PM

    I'm totally sold, but where do you buy them? I don't want to convert existing shelves, I want new ones.


Kim Bolan, MLS, Bolsters Ratio's National Library Design Expertise

Rob and I are excited to announce that Jessica Edwards and I have joined Ratio Architects where we will continue to focus on planning a...