A realisation about library signage

After a recent seminar I attended on e-resources for further education, see below post, and a re-watching of the excellent 1980 series The Shock of the New written and presented by Robert Hughes, I have come to two conclusions. Firstly, that language is very important for creating a suitable learning environment.

The second being that signs do not change behaviour, especially the behaviour of the people the signs are normally aimed at. Robert Hughes said, “Pictures educate, signs discipline”. In my library I am interested in educating all learners and not disciplining them. I aim for the library to be a transformative space, a space which raises the information literacy and aspirations of all its learners. Not a space which hits learners over the head with rules.

In my previous position at Northbrook College Sussex we have no signs in the library about no food or no mobiles. Can you guess how much of a problem we experienced with learners eating and chatting on phones? Almost none at all!

No area is perfect. Learners will always push boundaries to see what they can and cannot get away with. I believe that it is by building up a relationship with your learners and helping them to appreciate the role the library can play in their lives that they learn to respect the environment and behave accordingly.

I know that my vision of a library utopia free of all signs is out of reach for a lot of institutions. If you must have signs, please follow these simple rules which I have been developing since 2001: Please avoid comic sans; please laminate your signs; please hang them straight; please avoid the use of the word “no”. Language is very important!

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About robertseymour

I am a Brighton based information professional. This blog is a place for me to develop my learning log and for my musings on interesting library and book happenings. Peace and love to you all. Please enjoy every day.
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2 Responses to A realisation about library signage

  1. I like your points! Pictures and images stick in people’s minds faster and longer than any words could.

  2. Hi Robert. I think you make some good points here. I’ve just moved from one campus library to another and here the faculty librarian has removed all posters save from two noticeboards. This means important or useful information is available to be read but doesn’t clutter up the walls and other surfaces. We are lax about food and drink too. Feedback from the students is always positive about the library and its staff and I think part of this is down to the welcoming environment. In conversation with a librarian at another institution the other day, she said ‘we are a social learning space, not just a store for collections’ which I think reflects the sea change in academic libraries. Anyway, I’m with you on your suggestions for good signage (but would add something about using colour in there too), especially the comic sans ban!

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