Ten Signs I Hope I Never See in Libraries Again 18

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately. I’ve even used the phrase “What story is your library telling?” as an IM away message. So imagine the synchronicity, when into the TTW comment bin comes a nice pointer to a post by Phyllis at “Something New Everyday” — she’s adapted Brenda Hough’s eight training tips for her library: “Eight Tips for Learning in a Changing World,” including this “Look for the story that exists in every situation.”

It reminded me of the images we’ve seen snapped in some libraries of some not very friendly signage mostly about cell phones. Remember, putting up a sign in your library is sending a message to your users — and it’s a story we are telling too.

Take a look at the images below, some from my travels and others from some friends who agreed to let me blog them (they’re clickable!) and think about the story these libraries are telling users. Take a walk around your library and look for the messages and stories you’re sending to users via signage, etc. And think about the reasons the signs went up in the first place: policy? one bad egg that caused a knee-jerk reaction? fear?

How might we change these stories?

Not Library 2.0
Courtesy of Michael Sauers Travelin’ Librarian

No Cell Phones

Not library 2.0
Courtesy of Michael Sauers Travelin’ Librarian

Turn Off Cell Phones

bad sign
Courtesy of Aaron Schmidt Walking Paper

No Skateboards
See this for more.

No Cell Phones

library sign
Courtesy of David King www.davidleeking.com/

No pets or phones

And get a load of this one:

Courtesy of Kokeshi http://rich.headsnet.com/

Here’s the “After” shot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokeshi/102990238

Some successes:



I hope to see more signs like these in the future:

Tour of Seattle Public Library 4/06


Library Marketing! Well done!

Need Help? Have A Question?

At Toronto Reference Library

Let’s build spaces and places that are welcoming and invite collaboration and throw in some cool technology to foster that as well. I am not saying we throw out all the rules, but let’s look closely at the rules we have any we are thinking about..and make sure they begin with the user.

Let me know what you think. And thanks to Michael, Aaron, Richard and David for sharing!

Don’t miss Michael’s 2.0 set at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelinlibrarian/sets/72057594081537084/

18 thoughts on “Ten Signs I Hope I Never See in Libraries Again

  • Janet

    I agree that the second set of signs are much more inviting and much less hostile, but there is something about the word “Collaboratory” that I find distinctly off-putting too, even though I know the coinage has been around for a while. And what does “Libraries Storage” mean, on the same sign?

    Also found it amusing that on the “because it’s not a trend” sign the girl jumping with glee is apparently barefooted — would she be let in to the library without shoes?

  • Anonymous

    The No Cell Phone signs are about being user led. They’re so users don’t have to put up with idiots braying into their phones.

  • Anonymous

    Are you an idiot? People should not be talking on their cell phones in a library. What a fuckoff you are

  • Michael Post author

    Of course libraries should have rules – policies – guidelines. We’re talking BEHAVIOR not technology. And why do they have to be so passive aggressive? A humanist approach would be much more user-centric than some of the examples here and in the other post.

    And anonymous commenters – not cool.

  • Anonymous

    It drives me nuts when people talk on their cell phones in the library. There have been numerous times when people have loudly sat there loudly talking about absolutely trivial crap while I’m trying to get some important, time-sensitive work done.

  • Steven

    boy, i never get tired of anonymous hostility. especially when it’s library-related. of course people should be able to talk in groups and on phones in the library if the library is equipped for it. unfortunately, while many emergent and reconstructed library buildings do have phone zones and spaces for congregating, many others remain too close for comfort. thus the signage. the problem is that some signs show aggression to every person who walks in the door. some signmakers simply need to present their policies in a more thoughtful manner. funny-the same logic can be applied to anonymous message board contributors.

  • Steven

    sorry, i screwed up the url to my blog. click on my name and feel free to anonymously post insightful comments wherever you like.

  • Halloween Jack

    Are you aware of what “passive-aggressive” actually means? There’s nothing passive-aggressive about putting up a sign saying that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated; rather, it’s perfectly assertive, quite the opposite of passive-aggressiveness.

  • Lauren

    I’m not sure you’re using the correct definition of passive-aggressive. Passive-aggression is when someone expresses a negative emotion in an indirect way that avoids confrontation. Putting up a sign that states a rule is not passive-aggressive; it’s not even just plain passive or aggressive. I think you’re using the incorrect definition popularized by sites like Passive Aggressive Notes, which characterizes passive-aggressive behavior as “slightly threatening” and seems to connect the concept with anonymity, hostility, or more bizarrely, all signs and notes whatsoever. Signs and notes are not passive-aggressive by nature. These particular notes are straightforward and direct.

  • curious

    I am curious (urp) as to how the tradition of libraries as silent spaces actually evolved. I would be very surprised if people couldn’t adapt to working in libraries (or at worst, designated quiet spaces in libraries) if they hadn’t been socially conditioned to expect silence. Haven’t any of you ever worked in a busy office? Any library science / history people ever looked into this?

  • Melody

    Stop harshing on the Michael. I get his point. Unfortunately, there are plenty of patrons who possess no sense of being in a public space with attendant behavioral expectations.

    How about a polite request involving consideration of patrons around you?

  • Colleen

    I have a rules poster up- it is fun and right to the point- also have fun other signs- I am the librarian that everyone cuts class to see! lol

Comments are closed.