Just the other day I was at a local High School Library and I counted 23 signs like the ones pictured above in the space. Yes, you heard me right -- 23 (and I may have missed a few)! Almost every row of books had a No Eating Sign on it and all the computer carols had multiple signs on it.
Is this the correct message to send our students when they walk into the library? I say no! We want our students and staff to feel welcome & feel like they want to come into our libraries. When you have negative signs up, you are doing the exact opposite. You are also challenging kids to do the exact behavior that you are fighting so hard against. I know that when I was a high school student I would take these signs as a challenge to see if I could break the rules.
How does it make the public feel when they walk into this space? Libraries are very often the space used for community events, like the one I was attending. Events filled with Board of Education members, community leaders, etc. are in attendence. The impression that these and other signs leave is that there are serious problems going on in this space. That is not the impression you want to leave especially when library positions and libraries are constantly being cut. My recent School Library Journal Article does a good job explaining the fight we as librarians face. These signs do not help make the correct impression to those exact BOE members & community members, who we so desperately need on our side.
Librarians, it is time to break up with these and many other signs and move to a much more positive way of getting your point across!
Do not want eating in your library (I am willing to have a debate with anyone as to why they should rethink this policy.. especially in a HS setting where students often have to choose between lunch or a elective they want... but that is a blog post for another day) make your signs creative and funny like these from the Georgia State University Library.
Want students to clean up after themselves! I love this idea from the Pompton Lakes High School Library.
Want students to be respectful of the space try one of these from Trent University Library:
Want to list rules for the library try something like this:
Librarians, its time to let go of the negative and embrace the positive. I promise you will not regret it!
Elissa Malespina is the Middle School Teacher Librarian in Somerville and a Presenter, Author and much more. The views are my own. Find my full resume above.