Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

When I was working at a public library, one of the most common questions at the reference desk was Where is____?  People would politely wait in line for 5 minutes just to find out where the bathroom was.  I felt bad for them wasting time in the queue, so wanted to post more directional signs.  But the research showed that the more signs you had, the more they were overlooked (which I completely understand as I am as unobservant as these poor patrons), so we really limited the number we had.

That’s why I was so entranced by Daniel Pink’s seven minute YouTube video on Emotionally Intelligent Signage.  Turns out, it’s not just a matter of posting a sign – signs need to connect with their readers in some way and they’ll be more effective if you explain the reason behind their message.  Imagine if our signs about not leaving children unattended also included a reminder that predators are everywhere, or if our “no cell phone” signs let people know that it’s not that we want a quiet, traditional library, but rather, that there are some people who need quiet to concentrate. 

Watch the video and then think about what you can do to make people want to obey your signs.

8/28 Thanks to Chris Rippel from Central Kansas Library System in Great Bend for bringing this video to my attention by posting it on KANLIB-L.

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3 Responses to Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

  1. Lori says:

    Great post — I’m going to use the video in an upcoming staff meeting to encourage some brainstorming about our current signage (and how we can improve!). Thanks for putting this out to us in libraryland…

  2. Carol says:

    For years I have tried to explain to others why I think signs don’t work, especially signs that tell people what they cannot or should not do in a public library. When I came to a small public library setting 10 years ago I removed all the signs that had words like no, do not, cannot, etc. in them and the staff were skeptical to say the least. My thinking was twofold. These signs are not welcoming to the few that read them and most people ignore them anyway. Most people in a library want to ask a person, not read a sign.
    I love the signs with empathy on the video. I too hope to use this video in staff training. To be effective I still feel signs have to be changed regularly because with time they become like the wallpaper in some settings. Not an airport maybe where you have to use them, but in a library where there are people just beyond them in most cases.

  3. Pingback: Friday Link Round Up « ellie <3 libraries

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