Librarian Design Share

inspiration for library creatives


August 2013

Mapping the Important Things

Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s quite likely that we all have a map in our library that looks a little something like this:

Old St. Francis College Library Map
The “Before” — Original St. Francis College Library Map

It’s descriptive, but difficult to scan, confusing to read, and not particularly visitor-friendly. Carolyn Li-Madeo at the St. Francis College Library in Brooklyn, NY took this original library map and turned it into a resource that’s not only easier for students and visitors to use, but clearly maps out the important spaces in her college library.

New St. Francis College Library Map -- Front
New St. Francis College Library Map — Front
New St. Francis College Library Map - Back
New St. Francis College Library Map — Back

Here’s Carolyn in her own words:

The library map is one of my most used tools at the Reference Desk. Prospective students and their families take copies as they pass through on tour, students and professors utilizing the library from other schools use it to find their way around, freshman locate quiet spaces to study and almost every student who comes to the desk for a  Reference Interview leaves with an annotated library map.

It was from these scrawled map notes — full of highlighter, arrows and call numbers — that I began to rethink how the map could better serve library patrons. So much of what the library has to offer students and professors is hidden behind a necessary veil of organization, however this organization tends to lead to an obstructive curtain of abstraction.

Map KeyMy goals with the redesign of the map was to ‘un-code’ the library collection by creating visual and textual entrance points for users. This primarily entailed adding subject headings by call number to the new map key and also the creation of a color coding system. You might notice that the subject headings are not all Library of Congress subject headings, instead some of the headings were changed to reflect the courses of study available at St. Francis. Additionally, many students study both nutrition (health promotion) and sports medicine, so these two divided sections were visually connected by the same color.

Other simplifications included the removal of ephemeral or highly detailed information that did not pertain to the physical collection. Individual tables (which often move throughout the semester) as well as computers were eliminated from the map.

Help Desk IconAdditionally, locations where students can receive help or assistance were united using icons and all three floors of the library were rotated to face north. This rotation caused the map to spill off onto the back of the page, a happy accident that allowed for a space to answer some frequently asked questions regarding library policy.

You can read more about Carolyn’s map redesign on her fantastic blog, Antelope as Document. You can download a PDF of her redesigned map, or email Carolyn for the original Adobe Illustrator files.

Branding Your Library

We librarians tend to make a lot of help sheets and signage to assist patrons as they use our resources.  That’s really what Librarian Design Share is about, right?  But even with best intentions, we don’t always fully think about the way our publications as a whole look and feel to our patrons.

I think Librarian Design Share would be remiss if we didn’t talk standardizing the look of your library’s publications, or branding, if you will.  Brands can highlight something unique about your community (perhaps it’s near water or you’re known for an historical event), your library (maybe you have an awesome stained-glass window or a spiral staircase), or it can be based on something more abstract, like colors, shapes, or even text.  We based our library branding on the pretty rainbow of colors our bound journals make on the shelves.  Everyone has bound journals on their shelves, but there’s something about the color arrangement and the mass amount of them that make the way they look in our large, light-filled space memorable. Here’s our general publication header that can be copied to any document:

new brand

Whatever standardization you decide upon should happen across the board–from all the pieces of paper that a patron might see in your library to your web presence. This is our website’s look:

8-6-2013 12-10-59 PM

I thought my library was well on the way to doing this, but a quick audit of our documents online and on our slat wall exposed at least three previous brands that are still in use on our handouts.

old brands

Yikes, you know what my new project is…

Think about it terms of your favorite store: their shopping bags have the same look as their store signage as their website, right? So should our libraries.  It’s about making things more consistent in the minds of our users. More simply, it’s about showing our users that we care enough to keep things updated, neat, professional, and easy for them to digest.

If you have great examples of a branding campaign you’ve created and implemented at your library, we’d love to see them! Consider submitting them to our site and sharing them with your colleagues.

PowerPoint to Impress

When the Senior Vice President makes 3 hours in his schedule to tour your library and talk to each department and staff member, you have to come up with something to impress him. We originally thought he could visit departments and individuals, and they could give him handouts of their stats and information while telling him more about their day-to-day actions. And then it hit us that we’re the library; we should strive to make our presentation to him as forward-thinking and eye-catching as we can, and we should make the experience as real as possible.

So, we assigned roles and scenarios to the VP so that he could experience the library as our patrons might, and along the way we could give him the behind-the-scenes view into what we do that makes their experience here so easy.  To show off our technology skills (and our stats), we devised a PowerPoint from pictures that we’ve taken of our library. We used SkyDrive to load it to a library iPad and presented it to him when he arrived.  The VP took the iPad to each department, which kept him on track with scenarios, and it kept our numbers right in front of him.  Here it is:

We uploaded the presentation to SlideShare and sent him the link before he could even get back to his office.  Impressed does not begin to describe his reaction.

Interested in modifying this presentation for your own library? Contact me for the original file.

Same Design, New Use

A few months back, I went to a resource fair in my institution, and another department had an interesting giveaway that I hadn’t seen before: an iPad cleaner.  Of course, this is really nothing more than a large eyeglasses shammy, but by putting it into the trendy context of an iPad or a tablet cleaner, it became THE swag to snag.

So, of course, I decided that my library needed to get in on this and make our own cleaner for the next opportunity we have to give things away.  I started with a simple, basic design, like the one that I picked up, but before long, I realized that we could use a design that was already in circulation…our tablet handout.  The iPad layout fits perfectly to the 5 1/2 x 7″ size of cloth.  The only change I needed to make to the design was to include our tablet site’s web address and QR code at the bottom so that patrons could find the site we were advertising (the tablet handout was two-sided with that information on the back, and the cleaning cloth can only be printed on one side).

iPad cleaner

You may notice that our tablet site’s image changed a bit since the last post, but we have committed to keeping this design for at least a year, so we ordered 500 of these babies at about $1.50 a piece through our institution’s vendor, and we think they’ll be a big hit!

What are you guys giving out to patrons this fall?

Contact me if you want the original Publisher file for this design.

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