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Creating a User Friendly Library With Signage:

The Indiana University Northwest Experience

by Ellen Bosman

What percentage of your library's users do you think are anxious about using the library?

  1. 15%
  2. 30%
  3. 55%
  4. 80%

If you answered 80%, you are correct. In a March 1986 College and Research Libraries article, Constance Mellon suggests that 75-85% of college students have a library "phobia" [1]. Let's look at some of the student's responses:

  • "I was lost in the library for a very long time. It was like a big maze to me and was easy to get lost in"
  • "I felt like a lost child"
  • "I was lost in there and actually scared to death"
  • "When I first entered the library, I was terrified. I didn't know where anything was located or even who to ask to get some help. I knew where the card catalogs were, but there were so many little drawers, I wouldn't even know where to begin."

These remarks all have a common theme: the patron's feelings of being lost. The feelings of "lost-ness" stem from several causes:

  1. The library's "vast" size -- although the library itself was only three floors
  2. Uncertainty about the location of resources
  3. Lack of knowledge / experience about how to conduct research

Interestingly, the first two causes are directly related to the library building. Apparently, library buildings, and therefore libraries themselves, are not always user friendly.

This article explores the concept of a user friendly library. The term "user friendly" is bantered about, but what exactly does it mean? What is a user friendly library? The components of a user friendly library will b Oxford English Dictionary [2] cites a 1979 Interface magazine article with the first definition. In turn, the article attributes Mr. Harlan Crowder for denoting the ease or lack of ease which is encountered when running a computer. The term has crept into everyday usage to represente addressed, specifically, how signs can enhance a library's user friendliness and relieve patron anxiety.

Any thing which is easy to use, or designed with the needs and convenience of the user in mind. What does that mean for libraries?

Named What's What's Hot Logo on the Internet this Week February 23, 1998 by the
El Dorado County Public Library Logo

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