Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Library Signage: Not Just for Bathrooms Anymore

Okay so here's one picture of food.
I was recently able, by the grace of my place of employment, a generous Emerging Leaders sponsorship by ASCLA, and my credit card, to attend ALA Midwinter in Seattle, WA. It was an awesome experience and as a good librarian I should probably write about it and should've Instagrammed all my meals and spent a longer time on the exhibit floor.

Or maybe write about how I'm enjoying Emerging Leaders and I'm humbled to have received such an honor and I'm sure many other people deserve recognition more than me, less than 2 years into my librarian career, and that sometimes gets me that Stupid Cat feeling again. Which is a good feeling, because it keeps me learning, always.

But I just want to share a couple pictures, mostly because I want my boss to see them and talk about them and this is probably the best format for the time being. The Seattle Public Library is an awesome space for a lot of things. What I focused on to bring back to my department was signage, because when focusing on space this might be cheapest-versus-most-beneficial thing to do. Also, I've been inspired by Storytime Katie's rules signage; small, well-communicated info gets everyone where we need to go.
So anyway:

The welcome sign, on every level as you leave the elevators, with a full list of rules and offenses. I wasn't going to take a picture of it, because I've thought for awhile that no one will stop for a wall of text, but I stopped. Maybe it was the large "Welcome", the use of white space? I'm not sure, but I'll leave it here anyway.

This was a display as soon as you came into the children's room. It's a game where you guess the animal based on its tracks, complete with "winter animal" books all set for check-out. Soon after I came back, another one of our librarians added a bear flip-game to the tot area, which has received praise. So, I guess this is something we're already doing after all! But a fun way to highlight your nonfiction collection.

I loved how every piece of furniture or open space either had literacy tidbits or facts about the library on it. The signs by the computers say: "The average kindergarten student has seen more than 5,000 hours of television, having spent more time in front of the TV than it takes to earn a bachelor's degree." I get what they were doing there, but since the worthlessness of both TV and bachelor's degrees are equally debated, I think it would be awesome to have some tips kids can use on the computers: highlight games, secret codes, something to draw their eye. Or something for parents that talks about the benefits of using computers.

I loved the graphic novel section so hard. Not only did it have an awesome untitled superhero, it had a literacy tidbit that was clearly placed for parents to read as soon as they felt uneasy letting their kid read graphic novels to properly assuage their fears.

Here's some literacy tips for emergent readers, as well as fliers about programs relevant to the age group, right by the books they'll be most likely looking at. Seriously, think about how easy that would be to do and the amount of people who pop in to your department every day, take a look around, and leave; not asking about programs, not seemingly interested in visiting the library again, kind of shy when you approach them to help, but just exploring the space. These are literally invitations sitting in the middle of the space, especially for those people.

The series books are arranged alphabetically by title; not only that, they're listed just for you. You will find what you're looking for, even if the librarian is busy with another patron, or, once again, you're shy. Alphabetizing by last name is slowly going the way of cursive, it seems; the only place kids can authentically learn it is in the library. The Internet catalogs by subject, and now picture books are going that way, too. I like this for its ease of use, even though alphabetizing by author allows for think-alouds because it's confusing for everyone under 13 (okay, 21. When Facebook started alphabetizing by first name in 2009, that was the end of an era, folks).

Last but not least, there was a Little Free Library INSIDE the public library. Without a library card, kids are welcomed to take home books and return them in three weeks without penalty. Granted, these are all paperback, but I love the idea of all kids getting books no matter what.

In fact, everything about the children's department at Seattle Public Library says, "Hello. You are welcome here. Feel free to use our services."

For more on creating a welcoming atmosphere and getting value for your effort, check out this awesome webinar by Joan Frye-Williams, and get pumped to do some stellar customer service!


  1. I really like the idea of honor system books. My library, unfortunately, does not have reciprocal borrowing with any other libraries in our county. 2 of the townships in my county don't have library service at all.

    I'd like the people who come in to get a book not knowing they are "non-residents" to at least be able to take home a paperback for their trouble.

  2. I feel like I got a great tour of the children's area just from this post. Thank you. You've given me some thinking points, as usual.

  3. Anne-- I struggle with that too. Especially when kids come with Boys & Girls Club, or the Y, and don't have a library card. Everyone else is getting something! I'd love to have an option for them.

    Sarah-- Wow, thanks! I was taking pictures of EVERYTHING, and I'm glad people are getting things out of my stalkerish efforts. :)

  4. I love the idea of putting literacy tips and programs relevant to certain age groups right by the books that they'll likely be looking at! Right now, we have those sorts of fliers sitting on a table that isn't near any books at all. I might have to see about moving them. Thank you so much for sharing!