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.