Wayfinding and Architectural Signage for Libraries

Directional signs and information signs guide patrons into and around the library

A recent article in American Libraries Magazine titled, Directions to Library Wayfinding,” by Donald A. Barclay and Eric D. Scott, does an excellent job of explaining the importance of wayfinding for libraries. Mr. Marclay wrote a clever set of “Bad Signals” for wayfinding in libraries.

To view an online brochure of real-life examples showing effective wayfinding and signage solutions for libraries, click here.

Want to create a hostile library environment? Follow these simple steps:

  • Put up as many signs as you can that contain words such as “no,” “must,” “forbidden,” “only,” “prohibited,” and “do not.” And do not neglect the good old circle-slash symbol.
  • Use plenty of italics, underlining, and bold-faced text. Better yet, use all three at once.
  • Do not scrimp on exclamation points!!!!
  • If you splurge on color, be sure to use plenty of red!!!!

What are the core components of poorly designed and low-quality signage?

  • The sign, or the lettering on it, is the wrong size—either too small if meant to be read from a distance, or too large if meant to be read close-up.
  • The sign is too wordy to take in at a glance.
  • The font is not highly legible.
  • There is not enough negative space around the lettering.
  • There is poor contrast between the color of the lettering and the color of background.
  • The meaning of the wording or symbols used on the sign is unclear.
  • The sign is made from cheap materials, i.e., paper.
  • The sign is poorly mounted: crooked, hung on a uneven surface, or attached with tape or thumbtacks.
  • The sign is placed where it is difficult to see or not placed at the point of need.
  • The sign is so old it has become shopworn or information is out of date.

DONALD A. BARCLAY is deputy university librarian at the University of California in Merced, where ERIC D. SCOTT serves as director of administrative services and head of access services. This article was excerpted from their 2011 Neal-Schuman book, The Library Renovation, Maintenance, and Construction Handbook .

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