or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library Signs, Good and Bad

   April 24th, 2008

Bad Library SignNow that April 15th has passed, I've started taking down my library's tax forms display, and all the signs in the library pointing to it.

I found the sign pictured here taped to the library's front door, which got me thinking about good and bad library signs. This is definitely a bad sign - questionable colors, second sign taped over top, and remnants of tape from when it was hung last year. I hadn't noticed this one before, which is what I get for using the staff entrance (we should all use the patron entrance more often to see what the public sees). I'm all for recycling, but we can definitely do better.

When it comes to signs, I think the fewer the better. Over the last two years, I have secretly been taking down signs in my library - no one has seemed to notice, and the library looks a lot cleaner.

I'm always interested in signs and marketing, so here are other examples of good and bad library signs - check out the Library Signage flickr group for more:



  • Don't Touch Sign - not only overly-negative, but counter-productive
  • No Cutting or Gluing - I guess the sign just supports a policy, so it's actually the policy I don't understand
  • Don't Move Tables - I don't like how totally inflexible this one is; librarians don't always think of everything
  • Turn Off Cell Phone! - way too negative! And emphatic!
  • Cell Phones are Silent - I like the funny graphic, and that the words don't outlaw cell phones entirely, but I'm not a fan of the big red circle-slash, and in this case it sends a mixed message

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11 Responses to “Library Signs, Good and Bad”

  1. Signs of the times « Peter Alsbjers blogg Says:

    […] of the times Swiss Army Librarian har samlat biblioteksskyltar – bra, dåliga, […]

  2. Removed Library Signs « Schu’s Blog of Lit and More Says:

    […] Removed Library Signs, originally uploaded by herzogbr. Here’s the photo’s Flickr description: These are some of the signs I’ve taken down (without telling anyone) around my library since I’ve worked here. I think an uncluttered area is nicer, and that fewer good signs is better than lots of signs that no one reads. Read more of my complaining on my website.  […]

  3. Signs, signs and more signs « Angels have the phone box Says:

    […] Great post on bad signs from the Swiss Army Librarian […]

  4. Vickie Says:

    I *KNEW* we had more signs in the past and I have looked for some of these, but assumed I had only imagined their existence. I can go crazy without your help.

  5. Kim Says:

    Woo hoo! I also take down bad signs. It is amazing how quickly the proliferate. It’s like bad sign fairies/elves sneak in at night and put them up.

    A sign doesn’t fix every problem. Most people don’t read them anyway!

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    Sorry Vickie – but doesn’t the library look so much now? And yes, you can go crazy without any help from me.

    PS: don’t tell Becky.

  7. Librarian with a whitepearlizedswissarmyknife Says:

    Very interesting post. Currently, I’m looking for good library signs so parents don’t encourage their kids to press the handicap door button. It’s such a common event over here,but it’s …not for kids to have fun with,hehe. Unfortunately, the library is filtering those links to apparently keep my eyes from burning. I just find that ironic and funny!
    Oh, I didn’t post my real email address btw.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    I posted what my library does to discourage playing with the automatic door button – not perfect, but one example.

  9. Nice Signs photos Says:

    […] Bad Library Sign Image by herzogbr I don’t like this sign – the colors, the paper taped on top, and last year’s tape. Read more of my complaining on my website. […]

  10. Swiss Army Librarian » Reference Question of the Week – 6/26/11 :: Brian Herzog Says:

    […] In other words, this will be a place where we can ask questions about working in a library, seek help on reference questions, find out how other libraries are handling a particular issue, and, yes, whether or not we need more signs in the library (no). […]

  11. Bad Library Sign « Signs « Prostatitis Answers Says:

    […] the colors, the paper taped on top, and last year’s tape. Read more of my complaining on my website. This entry was posted in Signs and tagged Library, Sign. Bookmark the permalink. ← Sam […]