You’ve seen it before: the imperative sign dictating “Do Not Reshelve Books.”
You’ve probably spotted it in your own library. Perhaps you’ve even made a sign of your own, frustrated by books put back incorrectly, or because you need to collect browsing statistics.
Have you ever seen a sign that explains what you should do with your browsed books?
Erin Bradford, a librarian from the State Library of North Carolina explains the usual “Do Not Reshelve” sign from the perspective of an expert user: “I thought, ‘What’s the harm? I know where they go and I know I’m putting them in the right spot, and I’m trying to help decrease their work by shelving them.'”
Library visitors don’t understand the reason for the negative command, so they don’t comply with it.
Using positive language helps encourage the library user behavior we do want to see. Instead of saying, “Don’t reshelve books”, encourage the alternative: and explain why: “Leave books on cart for counting and shelving.”
Negative language results in library signs that users ignore, or worse, gather a bad impression of the library. Peter Alsberg, Director of the Örebro County Library, Sweden, curated a group of signs he calls passive-aggressive library unmarketing.
Five Negative Library Signs
5: Do Not Worry About This Here Video Camera
by trombonekenny on flickr.
The “No offense, but I’m about to say something offensive” of library signs.
4: Do Not Write on Other People
via Funny Signs
This university library has seen some dark days.
3: Do Not Move This. EVER.
A library employee found these boxes 13 years later. How long will they remain?
2: Do Not Transform the Library into Concept Art
via twitter user katiersmith17
Do not yell “Roll Tide,” but other phrases are OK.
Happily, this sign was actually conceptual art about negative signs. Whew.
1: Do Not Eat Our Materials
Original source unknown
We can only hope this sign was created solely for one individual problem user.
Now that you’ve seen these negative library signs, please do not create a sign starting with “Please Do Not” ever again.
Edited 12/29/14 to include Erin Bradford, author of the SLNC post.