Shelving guidelines for your school library

There's a wide variety of shelving styles to choose from, for storing and displaying your school library resources. This information sheet has been designed to help you choose the right options for your library, along with step-by-step help on how to calculate your shelving requirements.


Shelving design
Shelving features
Calculating your library’s shelving requirements

Shelving design

Types of shelving for the storage and display of resources vary in design from wall-mounted to free-standing and rollaway units.

When planning the location and layout of your library’s resource collections and the shelving design:

  • visualise how you can use the library's resources to create a welcoming, vibrant and culturally inclusive environment through face-out displays, including different languages and cultural themes
  • allow for flexible spaces nearby, which you can adapt for individual, small or large group use during reading enrichment and other activities
  • ensure wall studs and noggins match the height and width of the shelves so you can attach wall channels securely, otherwise you may need free-standing shelving.

Take into account the types of shelving / storage required in the library office / work area for activities such as processing new resources and maintaining existing resources.

Shelving guidelines for your school library is a downloadable guide (PDF) with illustrations of different shelving types and styles.

Read more about creating modern library learning environments with flexible shelving layouts.

Our School library suppliers list has a range of the shelving options available, together with supplier details.

Shelving features

This section illustrates the features of different styles of shelving, for wall-mounted and free-standing units.

You’ll achieve maximum flexibility by using adjustable shelving that is easily reconfigured. This will allow you to intermix shelving styles and reconfigure your library layout. You can also provide space to intersperse pinboards for promotional displays.

A: Horizontal / flat shelves

  • Horizontal/flat shelves can be used for all types of resources and are available in two widths (900mm and 600mm) and different depth sizes. For example, 200mm for fiction, and 250mm or 300mm for non-fiction, reference and picture books.
  • If you can, allow space at the end of each shelf for face-out book displays.
  • An option is to stagger the height of shelves from bay-to-bay for visual variety.
  • Other shelving types, such as a sloped shelf or browser bin shelf, can be interspersed for face-out displays.
  • You can install flat canopy shelves along the top of each bay for displays such as books and student craftwork. Alternatively, you can use sloped shelves as the canopy.
  • An option is to have the bottom shelf slightly uptilted to make it easier to read the book spines.

B: Divider / slotted shelves

  • Slotted shelves are suitable for picture books, reference and non-fiction. Look into shelf labelling options, such as indicator blocks.
  • Divider shelves can be used to display the latest magazines with back copies stored beneath. Shelf labels can be used for each magazine title.

C and D: Sloped shelves (including 2- and 3-tier shelving)

  • Design variations provide for displaying single titles or stacking multiple copies of books or magazines.
  • Sloped shelving is suitable for all types of resources, new book displays and thematic / topical displays.
  • You can intermix shelving styles, such as placing a 3-tiered sloped shelf above a divider/slotted shelf.

E: Browser bin style

  • Browser bins are great for picture books, sophisticated picture books, graphic novels, and Quick Reads/Quick Picks.
  • Optional to include a sloped shelf above.

F: Lift-up display shelf

  • Another option for magazines is to have the latest copy on face-out display, with back copies stored beneath the lift-up shelf.

G: Free-standing display units

  • A variety of free-standing units are available for displaying resources, including:
    • browser bins for picture books, or
    • a divided browser bin designed for 'big books'.
  • Consult suppliers’ catalogues for the full range of styles available for books, magazines, newspapers and DVDs/CDs.

Calculating your library’s shelving requirements

Download the shelving guidelines, which include detailed charts and a step-by-step guide to calculating your shelving requirements.

image by Group3 Planners