Selling your Library – Signage, Part 1

Selling your Library – Signage, Part 1

Posted on Friday December 18, 2009 at 09:09AM

Selling your Library – Signage, Part 1 (Issue 11)

The signs in your library can tell a bigger story than you imagine. One misspelled word and you, as library manager, can be perceived as being illiterate. Ouch! Posted library rules that all begin with “Do not…” presents an image of a legalistic place that is not comfortable and relaxed. Too many signs can say to the public that your library is disorganized; that is, if they read the signs at all.
 
Signs are a good thing. They inform the public of the wonderful programs you have going on and when and where. They give your hours, and the days you’ll be closed for holidays. They even identify specific areas of your library space. Yet if there are too many signs, people tune them out.
 
There are a number of methods of making your signage more effective. The first method is to go minimal. Can you imagine your library without a single sign for a week? What sort of questions would your patrons ask, or not ask? One large university library I worked at decided to minimize the number of signs. They had the hours listed on the front door. Circulation and reference desks were identified. At each bank of elevators there was a list of what collections were on each floor, and at the end of every row of shelves was a 4” x 8” card listing the range of books in that section. Bathroom signs appeared only on the doors of the bathrooms. When there were programs or events going on, one 17” x 24” sign was placed right inside the front door, and removed as soon as the program was over. The effect was an uncluttered, highly efficient library. And people still found what they were looking for!
 
Another library I worked for used consistency in their signage. We developed a template for all of our signs, so there was a common look and feel. As people used the library, they became familiar with how the signs were laid out. This way, anytime we published ads in the local paper, we used the same template, which people had come to automatically associate with the library. Colours were standardized, so all children’s programs were posted in one colour; programs for teens, adults, and seniors all had their own colours as well. Again, the patrons came to associate the colour with the programs they were interested in. There too only one sign board was posted by the door listing programs.
 
The most important thing to keep in mind is readability. Double check spelling and grammar before you post your signs. Make sure the print is large enough to be read by all, and the colour of the font contrasts well with the background colour. Have someone read your sign for sense. You know what you are trying to say, so that is what you understand when you read your sign; however, it may not be so clear to others. Dirty, tattered and out-dated signs should come down immediately – who wants to go to a program if the sign looks like junk?
 
Take a moment this week to look at all of the signs you have up in the library. How many of them are necessary? How many of them are out-dated? Take down the old, the tired, the tatty, or downright boring. What do you have left? Don’t be in a hurry to replace them (unless they’re for upcoming programs or list your hours). I’d be interested in hearing what some of your patrons’ comments are.

Author: Northern Lights Library System

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