The Book Menu

YOU, yes you. You gems of the online community who take the time out of your day to say something thoughtful to another person (me!). The comments on my last post had me bawling in the best way. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind words and feedback. I heard you and I’m making good on my commitment to not overthink things. Since I’ll be blogging more regularly I encourage you to subscribe so posts are delivered straight to your inbox. Just fill in the the box on the right of your screen (location may differ depending on device) with your email and click subscribe.

I thought I’d jump back in by sharing something that has filled me with pure joy. Something that makes me happy every time I walk by and see families crowded around flipping through and snapping pictures. Introducing the Book Menu!

I first got the idea to try something like this from Teen Librarian Toolbox. I liked it immediately. A visual reader’s advisory tool to help families discover all our collection has to offer? Yes please!

I thought it would work at my library because we have a community of voracious kid readers. We get asked all the time for reading recommendations, often by kids who have read all the popular titles. I also know caregivers here use our website and app and will often place holds by themselves. I wanted something that would empower our readers to use our collection in a self-sufficient way, while also promoting the library as a place where they can get amazing recommendations.

My goals for the Book Menu (you know, in case you want to do this too and are asked to write up a rationale):

  • To visually draw children into the browsing process with colourful, graphically appealing “menu items.”
  • To promote our collection and increase circulation by exposing families to hidden gems.
  • To identify ourselves as a place where families can get recommendations that meet the interests of their child.
  • To encourage kids and families to come to the information desk to ask for help in finding something they are looking for.
  • To promote other services such as programs by including program posters as “menu items.”
  • To serve as a passive reader’s advisory tool when information staff are helping other people (which often happens on the busy weekends and after school hours)

Here’s how to create one.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

All you need for a Book Menu is a desktop reference system. Here’s the one I bought. It’s not the best but it gets the job done. It’s a bit wobbly and the covers are a little hard to see out of. I put cardstock paper in between each list to make them more visible. If you have the money, invest in a high quality one! I also used really strong tape to secure it to the shelf so people wouldn’t pick it up and move it around.

Step 2: Make Your Lists

I decided to focus primarily on chapter books and graphic novels with some nonfiction thrown in there. Picture books are more browsable, and we get more questions from school-age readers. It’s also the collection my staff are less comfortable answering hard reference questions about because they often haven’t read the books. If I had space in my teen area I would make a separate Book Menu just for them. You can make lists about any topic and any part of your collection!

Here’s my gift to you: the Canva template for the 35+ lists I’ve already created. You can edit them to your heart’s delight! If you have a paid Canva account you can make these even better; I was stuck using free images and fonts.

A huge shout out to Karen Jensen at Teen Librarian Toolbox who kindly sent me her Canva templates when I was getting started. I also adapted some of the lists on Visual Book Lists, another amazing resource.

Here’s some of the lists you’ll find in my template.

Genre Based

So You Like…

For the K – 3 Crowd

For Special Days and Months

Step 3: Find a Place to Display

Next you need to figure out where to put the Book Menu. I cleared a space at the beginning of the chapter book section because that’s what my book menu focuses on. Mine takes up an entire shelf. You could also put it on a display space or on your information service desk (that could be a cool talking point when patrons come to the desk!)

Step 4: Update Your Lists and Get Creative

I try to rotate the lists every month, adding seasonal lists and switching the order to keep it fresh. If anyone creates lists for upcoming seasonal events, please share them in the comments!

Another feature I recently started is called Reader Spotlight. Kids can fill out one of the forms and I create a list based on their recommendations. My goal is to create a community of readers.

One thing I haven’t been able to do based on limitations of my library is put QR codes on each list so families can scan it on their phone and be taken directly to the booklist on the library’s website. How easy for them! If you can use QR codes, DO IT.

So that’s the Book Menu, my source of pride and joy. Have you ever done anything like this? Do you have other creative ways to do reader’s advisory? What lists should I make next? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

(p.s. I am trying out a new widget which allows people to react to comments with emojis. Feel free to try it out.)

58 thoughts on “The Book Menu

  1. This. Is. AWESOME! Such an incredible idea to promote the collection, and take some of the burden off the staff. Thank you so much for sharing the templates!

  2. OH MY GOD LINDSAY!!!! THIS IS AMAZING. We are so going to be kidnapping this for our kiddos. This is such a great project that you did!

  3. I LOVE this! Thank you for highlighting this fun and creative reader’s advisory tool. There are so many ideas out there, and it can be daunting to try and find new and fresh ones.

  4. Oh, MY! (Insert obligatory George Takei .gif here.)
    This needs to come to my branch. It’s a great way to expand the handout-sized RA guides we make, while using less paper.
    We’re lucky enough to be able to use QR codes – we just use the QR Code Generator extension to generade the code for the list in our catalogue.

    Thanks for sharing! <3

    1. Yes, it’s a great alternative to printing thousands of pieces of paper each year for booklists. You’ll have to tweak the formatting a bit to fit the QR codes, but I am jealous!

  5. I LOVE this idea SOOOO much! Right now we have our lists taped up to the endcaps of our shelves. This is Such a great idea, I love the look of it! Thank you for the idea AND canva links!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been meaning to get a Book Menu going for months and it keeps falling to the bottom of the priority list.

  7. This is AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. I LOVE this idea as a way to do readers’ advisory in such a visual way! Thank you so much for sharing with us!!

  9. Thank you for sharing this completely phenomenal resource! My supervisor and other staff are going to love it and it will be incredibly helpful to parents. This is exactly what I needed and you have saved me HOURS of work. Thanks again. You crushed it!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I am all for saving other people hours and hours of work.

  10. Heck yes, Lindsey. This is such a great idea and so easy to replicate. Sharing right now.

  11. Love it all! Songs, booklists and your helpful & insightful ‘ramblings’!

  12. I LOVE this! Now, how to find the time to do it here. (Think, think….)
    Thank you!

  13. Thank you for the awesome idea! I’ve wanted to do book rec flyers for a while but was never sure the best way to present them to the public. I know exactly where they can go in my children’s and teen sections, too!

    1. Awesome! If you create any teen lists, please feel free to share the template link by emailing and I can add it to the post for others too.

  14. I love this so much! I already have my supervisor on board. The templates will help so much! thank you!

    Do you mind posting your template for the Reader Spotlight? (This idea is so cute!)

    1. Nevermind! I found it at the bottom of the booklist template! Thank you!

      1. Yay! Yes, it was hidden at the very end.

  15. Love this idea! I could also see this being really helpful for the staff at my library too. As a small library, we only have one circulation desk which is staffed by a few different people throughout the week and not all of them are as familiar with what we have in the youth collection as I am . Something like this is an easy and quick way to help other staff members at the front desk become more familiar with some of the youth titles we have. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I keep a copy of all the lists at the information desk so staff can easily refer to them too. It was one of my goals to better support staff doing reader’s advisory – glad it will work for you too!

  16. Thank you! Great ideas! The templates will help a lot!

  17. OMG! This is so amazing and everything I could ever ask for! I am always, always asked for recommendations…If you Like… This boggles my mind Lindsay! I love it. If I may ask, how do I add the templates in my canva? I click on your link and I see “use this template” but when I leave and go back into canva, I don’t see the templates are saved anywhere. I am a bit of a newb on canva. Thanks for all your fabulous ideas and for freely sharing your files.

    1. ooops…Lindsey! I spelled your name wrong. Sorry sorry!

      1. No worries, Anita! I believe once you open the template a version should appear in your account. Try renaming the template to something different. That might officially save it as a different file. I am pretty new to Canva too, so if that doesn’t work I’m not sure what else to suggest! Maybe there will be Canva pros here in the comments who can help.

  18. Sweet! Thanks I will try that! Yes, I’m sure I will figure it out lol! Again, the BEST IDEA ever! Love it! Thanks for all your help!

  19. This is so cool and useful. I want one for myself to flip through! I am so glad you’re back. 🙂

  20. Thank you!! I will definitely edit some of the lists to fit my library. I have been wanting to make lists but it seemed so time consuming with how many I should make. Forever grateful for all of your wonderful resources!

  21. Thank you so much! This is such a great idea, and your generosity is so appreciated!

  22. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing project!

  23. Awesome idea! We are adopting a low-tech version with a binder and laminated pages. Super excited about this! Mahalo nui loa! ~Honoka’a Public Library

    1. That’s brilliant! You definitely don’t need the reference system to share the lists.

  24. Seriously? This is AMAZING! As a new librarian, with an all new children’s and tween crew, this is just what we’re needing! Thank you thank you!

  25. We’ve had great success with the same idea, as laminated posters. We find that some readers prefer to find their own books, so we put them on the far ends of our fiction stacks, but staff also use them to jog their memories. Ours are “If you liked…” Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Lightning Thief and Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Fairies series. The posters are also a great opportunity to highlight some of our more diverse authors and titles.
    Love this rack idea: it would give us much more space, and kids could choose several genres or themes. Also might be easier to update. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Rainbow Fairies is a great idea for a list! I haven’t done that one yet.

  26. I saw this post yesterday and ordered a stand; it’s already here! Thank you most of all for including the Canva templates so I can get this implemented in one afternoon.

    1. Woop, woop! You may have to edit some of the templates to reflect your call numbers, but glad it’s mostly good to go.

  27. THANK YOU for the templates – I really want to incorporate this into my Children’s Room!

  28. Thank you Lindsey! I have a similar thing for staff, but I could really make it shine with the template and it might be fit for the public.

  29. What’s the difference between a “desktop reference system” and a binder with dividers?
    Thanks for sharing this file, it is an enormous amount of work to share <3

    1. The reference systems don’t have front and back covers and they come with a stand that makes them easier to sit on a shelf. Honestly though you can use whatever works!

  30. This is FABULOUS!!!! How has this not been done before? What a great resource for parents and for our young readers! Thank you so much for sharing!

  31. Thank you for sharing. This is such a great idea and a great resource for parents and young readers.

    1. You are SO generous! Thank you. We are on it, much appreciated.

  32. I almost fainted when I saw that free Canva file link – I feel like I just found a $100 bill floating down the street. Thank you so much for sharing!

  33. I am so amazed at your generous share! That’s a lot of work making those templates. Thanks so much for sharing.

  34. Thank you for this amazing resource! I’ve been wanting to do this but could never seem to get it started. This is going to be a great jumping off point for me.

  35. WOW! This is Awesome! I am so excited to bring this Book Menu to the Library Bus! Thank you so much for sharing, Lindsey! What a wonderful way to keep our young readers excited to continue reading!

    1. It makes me happy to know the Book Menu will get some wheels!

      1. This is AMAZING! Thank you so much from one overworked children’s librarian! (I guess that’s all of us actually!) Where did you git the flipbook that the Book Menus are in?

        1. Thanks, Michelle! I linked to the flipbook under Step 1 in the post. Enjoy!

  36. Love this, but I only seem to be able to open it in view mode (I have an education canva account). Any thoughts as to what I am doing wrong ?

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