Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Time of the Signs

Photo of "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign
Iconic Las Vegas Sign (courtesy of Pixaby)
I've been thinking about signs lately.  Maybe it's because I've made two trips from New Glarus to Minneapolis this month and paid a great deal of attention to the travel / business signs I encountered along the way (after all, I didn't want to miss the turn off for the Norske Nook in Osseo).  Signs exist for so many reasons.  They can be directional.  They can be informational. They can make you want to buy things (like banana creme pie).  They can - over time - even become iconic like the classic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" neon sign.

We have a ton of signs in LibraryLand - probably too many. And we've all seen the websites and blogs devoted to silly, useless, and entirely negative library signs.  I've certainly created my share of "don't even think about it" signs during my years as a librarian.  So - as fun as that could be - I'm not going to rehash those.  Instead I want to focus on how our library signs can be more effective.

The San Jose Public Library has made their Signage Design Guidelines available online - it's a marvelous document that describes their journey to create customer-centered signage.  What they discovered along the way can help all libraries - big and small:
  • be consistent with names of library departments, collections & destinations
  • less is more when it comes to the number of signs in your library
  • keep signs concise for users to read while moving
  • keep in-depth signage in wait areas only
  • merchandise library materials face out to minimize the signage needed
  • pictures & graphics speak volumes
  • have a consistent use of signage hierarchy (primary, secondary, tertiary & collateral)
  • language translation is not critical with primary signage
  • have a recognized "look and feel" to your library signs
  • use odd shapes & sizes with your signs
  • staff training is essential to incorporate these new principles into practice
I love the one about pictures and graphics speaking volumes.  A recent discussion thread on the ARSL list focused on libraries using digital signs / digital monitors to promote their services and programs.  The general consensus from the librarians who posted was that this was an easy, versatile, fairly inexpensive, and effective way to capture the attention of our library users.  If you want to use photos from library events / programs that clearly show library users, then be certain that your library is using a photo release form.  Wisconsin state statutes protect the identity of library users whether they're checking out library materials or attending a library-sponsored event or program.  An example of a photo release form can be found on our DPI website.

Many thanks to my hubbie, John, for coming up with the title for this post.

Written by:
Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development