Leah White on Library Signage

Library Signage, originally uploaded by calicorocklib.

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Our desire to avoid confrontation and our inability to understand the user get in the way of providing the highest level of service. Bad signs exist in all types of libraries, victimizing users without bias and leading to some unwelcome encounters. It makes me wonder if a bad sign is truly better than nothing or just making things worse.

Signs can serve several functions but generally fall into two categories: library marketing and communicating library policies. Many librarians and administrators agree that it’s important to communicate that the library is a pleasant and studious institution, but sign-makers go astray when they create signage in an effort to shift blame or passive-aggressively punish users for presuming they have certain rights while using the library. Such negative signage insults our patrons instead of guiding them or communicating policies in a positive and efficient manner. A well-written sign, inviting and creatively designed, can do so much; an insulting sign has the potential to do more damage than good.

Many library users return to libraries because there is something special that keeps them coming back. However, if you welcome them at the entrance with insulting signage, people will think twice about patronizing such an institution. What would happen if we took all those signs away? While the situation would not be ideal, it is still preferable to poor signage. Patrons would consistently need to ask for assistance at service points. While it is nice to have those stats, the time of the staff could be better spent.

Read the whole article here: http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/my-mind/signage-better-none-bad

Leah was a student in my very first LIS701 class in Fall 2006. I am so pleased to see what she’s doing in her career! Well done Leah!