DIY Library Bulletin Boards: Tips, Resources, and Ideas

Do-it-yourself maven Melissa Techman says that bulletin boards can be important communication opportunities in your library. The K–5 librarian offers tips to keep it cheap and chic, and guidance on how to align bulletin boards with inspiring and informative instructional activities.
If keeping bulletin boards fresh and enticing doesn’t come naturally to you, you’re not alone. Bulletin boards can be important communication opportunities in your library. If you’re feeling stuck, think about how you can align bulletin boards with interesting instructional activities, and take a look at how they can inspire as well as inform. Here’s a roundup of tips to approach what can feel like a chore.


A clipboard bulletin board makes it easy to .

A clipboard/grid bulletin board makes it easy to change the content. Photo courtesy of Andrea Graziano on Pinterest. 

Reusable materials and themes can be both time and money saver. Fabric backgrounds can remain through many changes. (Tip: When cutting felt, use freezer paper as support.) Colorful clipboards in a grid can hold poems, art, or book ideas. A simple, attractive brown tree made of crumpled paper or real sticks makes a good armature for a year’s worth of designs and student art. Find a colleague who can write beautiful, big letters, or a parent who would love to use their home electronic cutting machine for letters. Here’s an easy, year-round theme to use for your bulletin board—comic book library icons. Take a look at these wonderful and versatile “Batman 66” (Marvel Comics) icons from Rebecca Brooks, the assistant library director from Gretna (NE) Public Library. Brooks' library blog "Hafuboti" (means “happy fun book time”) is full of cool display ideas. Kids of all ages can make variations on these figures. Let them play around with signs, symbols, and characters for the library areas. tk

"Batman 66" figures as library icons from Rebecca Brooks' "Hafuboti" blog.

Some year-round, easy-to-refresh templates include: What We’re Wondering, These Books Are From _________ (use a big U.S. or world map), Library Words to Know, Open the Door to _________ (could be genres, science themes, games), and Author Birthdays This Month. Or put up a big, laminated Venn diagram and let students tape information on it, such as What’s the Same and What’s Different: Native American Tribes, Animal Adaptations, and Past and Present.


Just as classrooms look better with real work on the walls, your library will benefit from real student art, writing, and input. When in doubt, go for enticing over didactic. Some starting points: student-made how-tos (for finding books, Minecraft, how-to-draw, or tech tips); students’ reviews or suggestions (best funny books, if you like _________, books we liked when we were in _________ grade); and highlights of classroom units with student pictures and labels. If your users are always drawing popular characters, use them. Take turns featuring different student favorites, from Pokémon to Mo Willems’s Pigeon to Pete the Cat. Think about letting students document events and activities: Who We Skyped with This Month, Outdoor Learning, Reporting on _________ (have student reporters write up field trips or assemblies). Let users run a Great Pairs bulletin board, featuring fiction and nonfiction connections or character types. Or team up with a teacher and showcase classroom work. Windsor (CA) High School English teacher Catlin Tucker posted the results of her students' work after teaching them how to create infographics, which “makes thinking visible.” Visit Tucker's "Blended Learning and Technology in the Classroom" blog. TK

English teacher Caitlin Tucker displays a students' infographic project on her blog "Blended Learning and Technology in the Classroom."


Often interactive bulletin boards translate into prompting inquiry or inviting guessing from users. Carolyn Vibbert’s board, Seuss Silhouettes, which I found on her "Risking Failure" blog, is great for visual literacy skills. Vibbert’s blog provides the step-by-step directions for this particular project, and it’s an easy idea to extend, from guess-the-continent to guess-which-symbol-goes-with-which-genre. Parents might be able to cut these out at home, or you could have student helpers do so during lunch. TK

Click image to go to Seuss Silhouettes on Carolyn Vibbert's "Risking Failure" blog.

At the Chattanooga (TN) Public Library, librarian Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is known for her use of nature elements and impromptu materials. “There is a pride and sense of ownership when kids visit a library that displays work they've created,” says Dunn, who recently had children at a community event make a board mural with a winter theme. “My coworkers and I try to provide those types of opportunities as much as possible.” Find Dunn's library projects—and the boards that inspire her—on Pinterest. TK

The winter theme mural that librarian Rebecca Zarazan Dunn of Chattanooga Public Library created with her patrons.

Another way to invite discussion and curiosity is through an easy-to-change bulletin board using post-its and plastic baggies, like this one (image below) from school librarian Anita Mays of Baker-Butler Elementary School in Albemarle County, VA. TJ

Librarian Anita Mays easy-to-change board of found-objects.

Librarian Pam Grammer, at Crozet Branch library of Jefferson-Madison (VA) Regional Library system, had young patrons make their own "I Spy" rhymes and boards, using found objects and little treasures. Librarian Pam Grammer's I Spy board at the Jefferson-Madison (VA) Regional Library.

Librarian Pam Grammer's "I Spy" board.

Make a bulletin board a destination for inquiry and play; cover it with blackboard contact paper and have a basket of chalk; or put a question on it and have post-it notes handy for students’ responses. You can also print comic strip or storyboard blanks for users to fill in. Drawing/collage centers or book-making centers will produce some lovely and unique bulletin board décor. These don’t have to be forced into a theme. Similarly, seasonal gatherings from nature walks can become part of a quick and appealing board if you model it after Anita Mays’s board idea using post-its and plastic baggies.


Want to be inspired by some masters of display? Check out Rachel Ikehara-Martin’s jaw-dropping library display work on Pinterest. Ikehara-Martin, a youth services library associate at the Timberland (WA) Regional Library, created a Jack in the Beanstalk vine growing from a giant cardboard book that has been pinned all over Pinterest. Even the greats need to be inspired, and Ikehara-Martin has a Pinterest category called "Library Display Inspiration." TK

Rachel Ikehara-Martin's Dream Big display of Jack and the Beanstalk. Photo courtesy of Rachel Ikehara-Martin

Keep trolling for ideas and prompts, even for just a few minutes a day. Some search keywords: visible thinking, teaching infographics, upcycling and bulletin boards, STEM and STEAM bulletin boards, student-made tutorials. (Also, take advantage of Pinterest’s new, easy search options, with suggested categories and keywords.) Highlighting student creativity and learning can take your displays in a new direction, encourage a sense of ownership in the library, and present your library as a place of productive inquiry. You can find Techman's Cheap and Cheerful Librarian Tips on SLJ's Pinterest page. Bulletin board resources:
Carolyn Vibbert’s board themed Seuss Silhouettes on her "Risking Failure" blog Chattanooga Public Library's Rebecca Zarazan Dunn's Pinterest page Rachel Ikehara-Martin’s Pinterest board Rebecca Brook's public library blog "Hafuboti" and “Batgirl 66” library icon mashups A-to-Z Bulletin board ideas for titles and themes Practical tips and tricks for bulletin boards School "Library Displays" blog: Teacher Caitlin Tucker’s infographics blog
Melissa Techman is a K–5 librarian at Broadus Wood Elementary School in Albemarle County, VA.
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Your ideas are great but we have 1 problem. Our school division is really in to workplace health and safety and fire codes which no longer allows us to use back paper etc. on our boards, we can't have items protruding off the board, everything must be stapled on all four corners. I did some paper rolls covered in book covers, created a tree for Christmas and glued it to a back paper: I was very surprised that I wasn't told to take it down. we are also only allowed laminated items taped on all 4 corners on glass. we can't hang anything from ceilings either. This makes bulletin boards and contests very challenging.

Posted : Jan 07, 2015 08:21



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