Ever since TTW started showcasing unwelcoming library signs I have found myself hyper-aware of just how much our libraries love to use notices, signs and other visual instructions. Have you ever heard these doom-laden words in a meeting? “Oh well, lets put up a sign to tell people to do/not to do x“. My heart sinks when I hear it because I know how ineffective they are.
From where I’m sitting right now, I can see seven signs informing and instructing our patrons about thieves, toilet keys, lack of computers, unattended desks – and so on. While the signs I can see are attempting to provide some information and assistance to patrons I also know of others which have been far from welcoming. I remember hearing Frederick Hundertwasser commenting on a radio interview about bad architecture
“This visual pollution… is the worst kind of pollution because it destroys the soul.” 1
This might also be said about the sort of signage that creeps into our library environment.
My pet peeve is the cell phone issue. We’ve had signs totally banning people from using them. That didn’t work. Then we decided to have cell-phone usage areas so folks could use them away from major studying areas. That didn’t work. Now we’ve got a policy that says you can’t have cell phone conversations in the library. (Conversations?! Do text conversations count? What about loud ring tones or the one that crows all the time?) Well, that’s not working either and I really can’t blame staff for being reluctant to act as Mr Plod and lay down the law about it. I know I am. I carry my phone round my neck – such a bad example. My excuse is that I have two young children (at school & daycare) and I need to be contactable by their caregivers when I’m not in my office. Many of our students will be in similar situations.
Cell phone usage is so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to see the point of trying to eliminate their use. Can we not aim for courtesy instead? My observation is that students do (mostly) attempt this.
I’ve seem our students use their phones to record call numbers to take to the stacks. I know that some would like to get library notices via text – something we’re looking at doing.
As smartphones like the iPhone become more widespread I would hope that our catalogues and other online resources would be mobile-friendly enough to use in house if desired. I would hope that our library policy might be re-written to accommodate other ways to use cell phones in libraries beyond just talking.
1. Sorry – no link or reference.