Shelf Topper for More Books More Beautifully in the Library

Introduction: Shelf Topper for More Books More Beautifully in the Library

Many librarians have more books than space. Who couldn't love more books?!
The top of shelves often becomes a shelf. It doesn't look as purposeful, and is hard to keep neat. What else can be done?

Add a shelf topper.

Keep books neater. Store more books. Beautiful.

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Step 1: Materials

Material list

I found "common" boards at my local box store in 8" (7.5) and 12" (11.5) inch widths. These seemed ideal for my situation. The 8" size is perfect next to a wall for one row of books. The 12" for front/back rows.
9.5" inches tall fits most all the books in my library. You will need to custom measure for your shelves.

Tip- Consider having the books on top of the shelves temporarily to determine the size/height that works best.


Don't forget to have larger boards cut to the length of your space at the store. Easier to transport.
Follow all safety warnings for cutting wood- eye protection always a must!
Every three shelves was around $100 for my library.

Step 2: Assemble

Drill holes. Be sure to countersink screws (make sure they are flush and not sticking up to "catch" on any book/user)
Also set drill depth as in example picture.
Drilling holes will make sure that the wood doesn't crack.

Sometimes a screw might miss. As long as it misses to the inside it will be completely hidden. Drilling makes it easier to tell how to line up the pieces. Wood is never as straight as you'd like.

Step 3: Stain- Optional

Be sure to try stain on scrap pieces.
Generally the more common wood has a significant yellow tone. Yellow + red tones = weird orange
It's worth repeating: Be sure to test stain on a scrap. Generally, avoiding red tint is a good idea.
Follow all safety warnings- eye, fume, etc.

General wood working principles:
Sanding is always worth the time it takes
Two coats of stain (or stain gel combo) is always worth the time it takes.

Step 4: Use + Discussion

A brief word about "sight lines" and row height- If you have users that regularly mis-behave between the stacks, shelves might make it harder for you to see them. My experience has been to raise books up from the bottom, which offers less of an excuse to be down low "hiding" in the first place. Keeping the shelves to one row high is probably a requirement in earthquake prone areas as well. Having two rows of shelves tall in the middle could also potentially be a safety hazard due to the increased weight.

It doesn't matter how nice your shelves look- if you share a space with clubs or staff, they will stack their stuff. (It's the public in the public space.) So be sure to keep your books and displays on top and fresh!

Your new shelves will naturally draw in browsers. It will always look nicer, AND you will have room for more books!

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