Eight Color Views from Ramsey County Library



Typography themed maze? Yes!


I was assured that the kids’ section isn’t always dark and empty. Looked cool like this though. Note the kid sized self check machines.




Am I going soft or have I just been running into good library signs recently? This library had a unified system of good looking signs. One of the best I’ve seen.


Finally, some journey mapping that we did.


Vintage Demco Letters

File this one under: from way back when, when people used to care.

Nate Hill was poking around the 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library (it’s so hot right now!) and found an amazing pin mount letter system. He knew just the guy that would put this on the Web!





Replacing horrible paper signs on stack end caps with this stuff would probably be a big improvement.

Previous vintage library ephemera on Walking Paper

Be An Army Librarian – 1963
Vintage Library Journal Wordmark
Library Hall of Fame from 1951

Librarian Design Share

I’ve long thought that a site like this should exist, so I’m very exited someone built it: Librarian Design Share.

Librarian Design Share

From their About page:

After one too many design-related exchanges on Gmail and Google Chat, we decided that people who work in libraries really need a space to share their design work and gain inspiration from the work of others. In the spirit of Stephen X. Flynn’s awesome Open Cover Letters project, we wanted to create an open online repository of interesting library-related design.

Take a poke around, there’s some solid stuff on the site. Nice work, April Becker and Veronica Douglas!

Less Clutter, More Useful

Keeping libraries free from clutter shouldn’t solely be the purview of the fastidious. It’s something we all can achieve, and should! With less clutter, people will have an easier time of finding what they want, and they’ll have a more peaceful experience. Conversely, clutter in and around the library is a user experience issue we all must address.

Tidy up the following clutter hot spots, and your library will run leaner and cleaner.


This column has often advocated for smaller, more effective library websites, and we’ll start there once again. If you’re not convinced that your website is full of clutter, take a look at the site’s analytics (if you aren’t tracking analytics, start now).

How much of the site’s content is used on a regular basis? My guess? Way less than half. If something isn’t getting used, or is used only by library staff, remove it so you can highlight more prominently content that people are actually using. Also, remove any clip art or stock photographs. The resulting pages will be easier to read.

You can similarly declutter the writing on your site. Be concise. Remember, instead of telling folks that “the library is the cultural hub of the community and aims to provide excellent customer service,” it is far more effective just to demonstrate it.


Our collections are prime candidates for decluttering. Much like looking for unused content on your website, you need to pore over circulation statistics to find items that aren’t working hard enough to justify the shelf space they require. Keeping the classics is one thing, but holding on to Windows 3.1 for Dummies is another. Recycle anything that’s collecting dust.

Taking a wider view of your holdings, you might find that an entire segment is cluttering things up. Your print reference collection is probably already much smaller than it was five years ago. Can the rest of it disappear? Do you ever see all four of the microfilm readers in use at the same time? Here’s a specific suggestion: pay attention to your magazines. They get messy quickly.

Building entrances

The entrances to our buildings are often littered with free newspapers, public transit schedules, community events flyers, and library advertising. Yuck. Make sure you’re making a good first impression by keeping this area neat and focused on materials of value to your members.

Brochures, newsletters, etc

These displays often fall prey to the same mechanism of expansion as the above print materials in entrances: more items get piled on, rendering each one less likely to receive any attention. Be selective in your presentation of these items. Ultimately, aim to be selective in their development, producing fewer, more relevant items in the process.


While superfluous library ­programs might not be a major problem in your physical space, they can clutter a library’s mental space. Is your library continuing to host long-standing programs owing more to legacy than enthusiastic attendance? Perhaps it’s time for them to be put out to pasture. Freeing up time and financial resources can enable you to try something new.


Hanging a large number of signs can inadvertently create an unrestful environment, especially if the signs are not well designed. Take down every sign that you can. In the future, instead of putting up a sign, try to change the circumstances that are prompting you to do so. Your members will be better served, and your space will look better for the effort.

Your website, again!

Clutter is such an epidemic on library websites that it deserves a second mention. Have you already reduced the amount of stuff on your site? Consider cutting more. While you’re at it, consider setting up a regular schedule of decluttering to ensure that there’s a counter­balance to the regular process of adding new pages and sections.

All together now

Since clutter appears in so many different sectors of the library, it requires a whole-system approach toward great user experience in order to address it. Decluttering demands cross-­departmental collaboration and the willingness of all staff to be attentive and open to change.

The final goal of decluttering isn’t to create a stark or even minimalist aesthetic; the goal is to increase simplicity and devote more time and effort to the services that are most important.

This first appeared in “The User Experience,” a column I write for LJ.

Views from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Recently I spent a morning with the web committee at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library. My thoughtful host told me that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s main library – the flagship of the whole program – was across the street. Clearly I had to take a peek.

The Hillman Library was a comfortable space and I wondered how the one across the street would compare. It compared favorably! Here’s some stuff I found impressive.

These signs appear over service desks. I noticed them right away though my gut tells their height might reduce their overall visibility. Regardless, “ask a librarian” is a much better solution than “reference” or “information” or even “help.”

Okay, so I think 99.9% of taped up 8.5″ x 11″ paper signs are a bad idea, yes. But this one struck my fancy. It is engagingly humorous and with its plain shapes and bold colors it has an attractive look.

A positively worded regulatory sign. While it would probably be better for library members if the rule didn’t exist, this is about as nice of a way to express the rule as possible.

The extra words on the sign are pretty powerful. They turn a sign that’s fine looking but completely blah into one that engages the reader as a human and makes a connection. Really nice.

Checkout how the marble stairs have worn. That’s a good usage statistic!

Signs On Signs. Never Good.

It probably isn’t a good idea to post signs on your library that read “library closed” when that’s not what you mean. Removing the paragraph at the bottom (that no one is going to read anyway) would have freed up the space to include “will be” inline.

These signs on signs are particularly unfortunate because, even though the overall design of the sign is lacking, the visual design is perfectly okay.

The signs’ nice visual design is also rendered less effective by the “let’s laminate these with packing tape” implementation. It detracts from the professionalism that nice looking signs might otherwise express.

Cornell University Library Signage

This student presentation about library signage in Cornell’s libraries [PDF] is worth reading.

It covers various types of signs – way finding, identification, instructional – and uses best practices to evaluate what they saw in the libraries. It also has some good information about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

Here’s the ADA signage checklist.

Nationwide Library Signage in Poland

In October I posted about nationwide library signage program in Mexico. Here’s another example, this time from Poland.

The Foundation for the Development of Information Society partnered with the Association of Graphic Designers to create new signs for libraries.

The purpose of the “direction: the library,” is to create a universal and “easy to use” visual identification system for libraries. All this to every resident or visitor could easily reach them, learn about their offer, and the place to find information you need.

Designers will be challenged to create library package labeling elements (from the direction, by a billboard and poster design for the label space, computer stations and departments on library shelves).

Here’s more about direction:library

Thanks to @megoc for the reminder!