Banned Books Week Display Ideas

Words have powerBanned book displays kick-off conversations about censorship and inspire readers to explore challenged materials. Below are display ideas from libraries across the U.S. — some which only require construction paper and an imagination.

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Collage of censored pages 

Print out sections of banned books or recycle pages of outdated materials and paint bold phrases on them, such as "Stand for the Banned," “Read Banned Books Here” and "Words Have Power."


Crate of banned booksLocked-up titles

Place banned books in a pet crate or create your own cage out of discarded materials. The Baker Middle School in Tacoma, WA, used large boxes to create a locked cell, and students put the final touches on the display. “I had the students research books that have been banned and the reasons why they were banned. They cross referenced that list with books that we have in our library,” said librarian Kristin Sierra. “Then they had to locate them on the shelves and put them in the box. It started some great dialogue in our class!”




Stand for the banned

Place a “BANNED” sticker on books, store bags, or receipts.


Shredded banned bookGuess the title

Shred printed pages of a banned book and stuff the slips in a clear jar. Ask patrons to guess which banned book is in the jar, and award the correct answer with a literary prize. 


Foundational freedoms

Display a Library Bill of Rights poster or distribute pamphlets, emphasizing libraries’ responsibility to challenge censorship (Article III) and present all points of view (Article II).


Three burned banners that say "Banned Books Week" hang above a display table of banned booksBurned banners 

Take advantage of old de-accessed book pages in your next Banned Books Week display by soaking them in tea and crumbling them before adhering the pages to thick poster paper. Lisa Socci from Stony Brook (NY) University Libraries added emphasis by burning the edges of the paper by hand, and spray-painting black letters intentionally outside the lines (display left). Socci added “fire” to the table below the banners by twisting red and yellow ribbon purchased from a dollar store and safety-pinning it to the tablecloth.


Blind date with a banned book

Cover banned books in brown paper and list only the reasons why they were challenged on the jacket. Find frequently cited reasons for challenging books on the Top 10 Challenged Books webpage.


An outline of a bird wallpapered with book pages hangs above a shelf of books. The shelves have orange tealights strung across them.Books on fire

Tape red glitter paper to the backs of the bookshelf you’ll use for the display. Tape strings of mini lights (or twinkle lights for a “flickering” effect) to shelves. Cover the backing of the display and the shelves with layers of yellow and orange tulle to mimic flames. For added emphasis, the Soule Branch Library's Amy Bader and Adriana Sotolongo created a phoenix out of poster board and streamers to hang above the display at the Onondaga County Public Library System in Syracuse, NY (left). You can also create flames out of orange construction paper or tissue paper.


Caution: Some people consider these books dangerous

Use caution tape to accent book displays and line bookshelves.


Interactive book exhibit with character cut-outs and displayed booksCensorship on display

Create an interactive banned/challenged book exhibit that includes "props" from banned books, a listening station, and character art. Find step-by-step instructions from the Library Jam blog.


Encouraging conversations

Invite patrons to answer intellectual freedom prompts on large paper sheets or a board. The James Branch Cabell Library in Richmond, VA, used a whiteboard to pose questions to its student body throughout Banned Books Week and received dozens of responses. One of the questions asked "How do you define freedom of speech in 5 words or less?" Here are more ideas on how to utilize a white board during the week. 


Cardboard notecards with reasons why books were challenged written on them

Hidden reasons

Utilize cardboard notecards to display the reasons why certain books are banned and challenged. Readers can flip the cards open to discover which book was challenged for those reasons. See the John Gould Fletcher Library's (Little Rock, AR) display to the right for inspiration! 






a person shines a black light flashlight at a frame next to A Clockwork Orange, illuminating the reasons why the book was challenged on the frameShine a light on censorship

Cover a bookshelf entirely in black paper (or any other material that will work best in the space you’re using) — you'll need the display to be as dark as possible. Write out cards with the rationales for banning each book on the display in invisible ink, and place them next to or behind their corresponding title. Patrons then interact with the display using black light flashlights, “shining the light” on censorship and illuminating the reasons why each book was banned. Check out Soule Branch Library's (a branch within the Onondaga County Public Library System in Syracuse, NY) display (right), created by Amy Bader and Adriana Sotolongo.