Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Way, Which

Where the hell am I?In my coveted opinion, the last thing we want to do is confuse the customers more than we have to.

This brings me to the issue of signage.

This is a very touch and go issue among professionals in our field. That is because there are several approaches to this obviously sensitive issue.

Some believe that signs should point to everything. And sometimes the signs should have a sign just to be sure.

And of course, you can never be too sure.

How much signage is enough signage? Let me illustrate this idea for you.

Above the Xerox, is it necessary to have a hanging sign that says "photo copier", and another engraved plastic sign (with braille) to announce yet again that there is a copier under the copier sign?

"NO!" you heartily declare as you sip your tea, carefully placed with the handle pointing to the left in the matching saucer.

"YES!" you heartily declare as you pop one more percocet.

This is the problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Layer upon layer, generation after generation of librarian designing and placing illustrative signs throughout the hallowed corridors of the library. Only no one steps back to look. Soon you have a literal yellow brick road to every book in the entire building.

"But we are helping the customers!" you say. "They need this signage, it guides them."

I hate to break it to you, but that much signage is as helpful as a blind seeing eye dog. Though, maybe that explains the braille on the Xerox sign...

I bravely went where no librarian had gone before. I did a signage inventory. Go ahead, do one. You'll be amazed. A few tips about good signage:

a)One good sign can do the job
b)Fonts should be consistent on all signs
c)Choose one color. Rainbow land confuses the customers. Red doesn't make it seem more urgent to the customer.
d)Never, under any circumstances, adhere a sign to the wall with scotch tape
e)Never, under any circumstances, should you hand print a sign. I don't care how "pretty" your handwriting is
f)Do not use a type writer to create signage or hand outs - unless you still have a type written card catalog that is used.
g)Use their terminology - not yours. "ASK HERE" means more than "REFERENCE"
h)Remove extraneous signage. Just do it.
i)No matter how many signs you put up, people are still going to ask directional questions. Shut up and answer them - the signs are not getting paid to work, you are.
j)Signs should be simple - not involved. i.e. FICTION: SECOND FLOOR BEHIND THE NEW FICTION SHELVING ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE BUILDING. oh yeah, that helped.
k)No cute names i.e. BOYS POTTY - just put MENS ROOM on the sign. They are still going to pee on the floor.
l)Use legible font. Arial Narrow is nice. No one else thinks that NON-FICTION spelled in Renaissance Calligraphy is fancy but you.
m)Identify LARGE PRINT collections with signs written in LARGE PRINT
n)During tax season, no matter how many signs you put up, people will ask where the tax forms are
o)High traffic areas should be in visible areas, so they don't require exhaustive signage
p)Identify special amenities on the front door with catchy signs - i.e. "WIFI here" - and repeat throughout the building with the same logo - on internal windows & doors. Transparent clings are awesome.
q)Think about creating a directory in a brochure format to hand out to new customers. Practice makes perfect.
r)Bring a friend (if you have any that aren't cats or dogs) to the library with you - and walk around for a while. Take notes & make use of them. Sometimes what we see becomes landscape.
s)Walk through the collection once a week and take notes about what signage is working, and what isn't. Don't fix it right then - you'll get distracted. Put aside time to do the correcting later.
t)Don't put signs in obscure places. A sign on the back of the 900's shelf is never going to be seen. Unless your collection is backwards, in which case you have bigger fish to fry.
u)Explore multi-lingual signage ONLY if your community is mutli-lingual. It doesn't make you look more cosmopolitan to have signage in Esperanto or French if it isn't necessary.
v)Keep signage up to date. If you've shifted your shelves, the labels should reflect that.
w)90% of the public has no idea what Dewey Decimal is. Think of this when you are creating signage. "700's this way" is about as helpful as a rubber crutch.
x)Raganathan told us to save the time of the customer. Consider this when revamping the signage.
y)Be consistent with your signage materials -stick to one color and material.
z)Signage that can be updated easily is best - slip in signs, and those kept in clear acrylic holders are faster to update than engraved or brass plaques.

As you can see the list could go on. Keep the approach simple & clean. Merchandise with your signs. You'll see that a properly labeled library is not only more efficient, but easier for the customers to use. And the library is for the customers, not us. No matter what you think.

Moral of this blog: I'm signing off now

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