I know that when I first stepped into the Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame when I was 18, I was incredibly intimidated.  I had been a patron of libraries my whole life, but here was a 14-story building chock full of millions of volumes.  There were “articles” to be read–I had no idea where to find them.  The catalog was complicated.  The call numbers had letters in them!

The worst part was that no one else ever mentioned that the library scared them, too.

It took me until well into my sophomore year to be really comfortable in the library, and as soon as I was, my friends started asking me to help them find things.  Turns out everyone was intimidated.  Why is this, and why don’t we talk about it?

When I got to Dominican, we finally started talking about it, but we talked about it from the librarians’ end.  “Library Anxiety” we call it.  Sounds like a clinical diagnosis, right?  We talk about what our libraries say to those who use it.  It is not just what people say.  What does our body language say?  What do our websites say?  What do our buildings say?  And what does our signage say?

What kind of messages do libraries send with their signs?  Signs seem like they should be so basic, but there are so many things to think about that go into them–content, tone, clarity, etc.

Signs range from confusing to intimidating to warm and welcoming:

Open to All

This one below has so much to say, but isn’t it just asking to be ignored??

Don't Read This Sign

So what can we do to send positive messages with our signs?  Go to this great Flickr group for more examples.