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Library Administrative Manual

6.1 Signage Policy

I. Introduction

The goal of the signage policy is to provide a user-friendly system that is informative, professional, aesthetically-inviting, and consistent throughout all public areas of the J. Paul Leonard Library. A consistent signage system effects greater information retention by the patrons, promotes visual continuity throughout the Library, and establishes an overall design image for the Library.

Primary orientation and directional signs (see pp. 2-3) are placed in pairs throughout the building and form the core of our signage system. All Library services are listed on the primary orientation signs and the services available on that floor are detailed on the primary directional signs (which include a map of that particular floor). This consistent approach to signage increases the overall impact of the system and facilitates greater patron use of the Library and its services. It ensures a uniform yet pleasing appearance to all permanent manufactured signs and avoids the cluttered and confusing look a library may acquire if signs are posted with no regard to overall system impact. An effective system relieves library staff of many of the directional and informational questions that can arise out of a confusing or inadequate system. It may also make the library a more visually interesting place in which to work, for both library staff and patrons.

The policy defines the types of signs, the overall signage design scheme of the library, and the direction the library wishes to follow in its signage system. Specifically, the policy identifies the:

  • Six categories of signage located throughout the library
  • Library-wide procedures for requesting signs
  • Basic elements of sign design in relationship to specific categories of signage
  • Sign manufacturing procedures

Evaluation of the signage policy and program will occur on an on-going basis. The program will be funded in the same manner as other library programs.

II. Categories of Signage

The categories of signage describe the various functions, content, and location of signs in the J. Paul Leonard Library. Signs may provide information, identify a department, or warn patrons concerning a fire hazard. The function of signs, in part, determines specific signage design, e.g., directional signs should contain an arrow pointing the way. Like signs should be similar in design and placement to facilitate location and message comprehension by patrons. All categories of signage should be standardized in design and terminology in order to heighten the system's overall impact.

There are six categories of signage in the Library:

  1. Orientation Signs
  2. Identification Signs
  3. Directional Signs
  4. Information Signs
  5. Regulatory/Lifesaving Signs
  6. Temporary Signs

Each category of signage has been further subdivided into primary and secondary signs. The design elements which will be used in sign production have been predicated in part on the specific demands each category of signage makes in conveying its message to the patron. Furthermore, identifying the categories of signage helps in standardizing nomenclature and terminology throughout the Library in editing the overall signage system for content and tone of messages. Certain elements of design (e.g., lettering) have been uniformly assigned to all categories of signage, regardless of message, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the entire signage system.

A brief definition and a few examples of each category of signage follows. Primary and secondary levels of signage are described. Tertiary and other minor levels may be inferred from the patterns established. Each category of signage in terms of specific design elements will be discussed later in the signage policy.

  1. Orientation Signs: These signs present the physical layout of the building and help patrons find their way around the building. They include location directories and maps.
    1. Primary Orientation Sign: Located in the first floor lobby entrance to the Library, they serve as the major location and informational directories to the entire building.

      Examples: Directory of Library Services throughout the building. Floorplans of major user service areas on each floor of the Library building.

    2. Secondary Orientation Signs: Located throughout the building at key points such as stairwells, bookstacks, or elevators, may be maps and/or directories.

      Examples: Map of third floor book stacks. Directory on the third floor of major areas/services located on other floors of the Library building.

  2. Identification Signs: These signs identify places, resources, specific functions within the Library. They may incorporate symbols and words when appropriate. The text is usually brief, generally one to four words, naming the department or function where the sign is located.
    1. Primary Identification Signs: Identify major service areas or units.

      Examples: Circulation Services
      Rapid Copy

    2. Secondary Identification Signs: Identify functions, facilities, equipment, resources
      1. Located in general areas of the library such as lobbies, stairwells, hallways, they identify facilities or equipment.

        Examples: Book Return
        Picture File
        Index Table 5
        Document Delivery Service

  3. Directional Signs: These signs guide people to areas or services within the building. They focus primarily on unique services within the building. They focus primarily on unique departments and facilitate movement within the library. They are located along pathways in hallways, elevator lobbies, entrances, or stairwells and point the way to such diverse library services/functions as general study and lounge areas, the card catalog, group study rooms, or phonorecords. They usually use an arrow and will utilize other symbols whenever possible. Information on the sign is grouped by direction.
    1. Primary Directional Signs: Identify pathways to major areas, services or units on a floor.

      Examples: Government Publications
      Technical Services

    2. Secondary Directional Signs: Direct patrons through the book stacks or clarify specific pathways within service areas.

      Examples: Line forms to the right Books

  4. Informational Signs: These are explanatory in nature, covering the full range of patron information needs. They can explain library functions or instruct a patron in how to use an index or copy machine. The tone of the sign is personal and it generally provides a referral for additional assistance if needed. They may contain extensive text.
    1. Primary Informational Signs: Located in general areas of the library outside department, directed towards all library users. They may either explain library functions or offer point of use information.

      Examples: Library Hours

    2. Secondary Informational Signs: Located within library units, they are directed towards a specific group of users. They may either offer an explanation of a specific procedure/guideline/rule or point of use information concerning departmental resources or equipment. They may also serve an identification function in conjunction with their informational purpose.

      Examples: How to Check Out Books
      How to Use Chemical Abstracts
      How to Use the Microfilm/Printer

  5. Regulatory/Lifesaving Signs: These are used to inform patrons of certain restrictions or to alert patrons to lifesaving devices or areas. Symbols may be used and communication is made in positive terms whenever possible.
    1. Primary: Located in general areas of library and in departments, directed to all library users.

      Examples: Emergency Exit
      Fire Alarm
      No Smoking/Eating/Drinking
      Watch Out for Your Valuables

    2. Secondary: Located in departments and directed to specific users of resources/equipment in the department.

      Examples: Turn Off Microform Machine After Use
      Keep Out of Enclosed Areas
      Cutters are Dangerous„Use With Care

  6. Temporary Signs: In addition to the primary and secondary distinctions that have been made within each level of signage, provision has been made for temporary signs. These signs are generally needed for a limited period of time only. Theoretically, they should conform with the same elements of design used to produce primary and secondary signs of their type.

    Examples: Changes in library hours
    Announcements regarding workshops, lectures, special events

III. Elements of Sign Design

All permanent signs, regardless of their function, should be treated consistently in terms of the basic principles used in determining their layout, specifically: lettering, color, shape, size, design and placement. The three elements of sign design that will remain consistent throughout the library are:

  1. Lettering
  2. Color
  3. Shape

Each of these elements is presented here in relationship to the various categories of signage in the library.

  1. Lettering: The Helvetica typestyle, a sans serif typestyle, will be used in its normal proportions for all categories of signage. Helvetica was chosen due to its legibility at a distance. The medium type weight of Helvetica typestyle is recommended for most signs in all categories. In instances of extensive text the light type weight of Helvetica will be used to guarantee maximum readability.

    Most signs will contain both upper and lower case letters. Only in rare occasions, (e.g., primary identification signs) will all capital letters be used.

  2. Color: The color of all signs will be either:
    1. Charcoal mat board with black type on white background: recommended for all orientation, identification, and directional signs and for all informational signs that do not have extensive text.
    2. Black type on white background: recommended for informational signs that incorporate extensive text, this will ensure maximum readability and facilitate production.
    3. Black type on white background with a red stripe across the top of the signs: recommended for all regulatory signs.
    4. Black type on white background with a green stripe across the top of the sign: recommended for all lifesaving signs.
  3. Shape: Signs will be limited to two basic shapes: vertical or horizontal rectangles and squares, in varying proportions. Consistency in shape helps the patron distinguish between different kinds of signs at a glance. A limited number of sign shapes facilitates production and is economical.

    Variations in sign shape may occur infrequently because the shape of the sign must also fit the space available. The sign shapes and their respective categories of signage are:

    1. Rectangles
      1. Vertical Rectangles Secondary orientation signs All directional signs (except for directional with a single message)
      2. Narrow Horizontal Rectangles All identification signs Directional signs (single message only)
      3. Horizontal Rectangles All regulatory and lifesaving signs
    2. Squares
      1. All informational signs
      2. Primary orientation signs

IV. Procedures For Requesting Signs

  1. Sign Request: a standard sign request form will accommodate all incoming sign requests from the Library staff (see Appendix I). It must be filled out for all permanent signs and or all temporary signs that will be posted for longer than one week. This form will be distributed to all units of the Library. Any staff member may fill out a sign request.
  2. Sign Approval: All requests are forwarded to the Graphic Specialist. Requests will be sorted into the following two groups for action:
    1. Sign requests that reflect obvious general signage needs, which can be easily evaluated (e.g. directional signs to restrooms and telephones).
    2. Sign requests that interface with specific departmental or programmatic planning, which will be referred to the appropriate department head or coordinator (e.g. informational signs that refer to specific services). These sign requests will be considered only after receiving input from the department.

At this point, the Graphic Specialist will make recommendations to conform with the approved signage goals and policy. Requesters will then be notified of the action taken and when to expect the signs.

V. Manufacture & Installation of Signs

  1. Permanent Signs

    Primary and secondary permanent signs in all categories of signage will be processed through the Graphics Specialist. Most signs will be manufactured in-house. The Graphic Specialist may send out such signs as primary orientation and identification signs for outside manufacture. Design elements of signs outlined in Graphic Specialist Binder.

  2. Temporary Signs

    Temporary Signs to be posted for one week or less may be manufactured by the requesting department/unit. There is no need to complete a sign request for these signs. All other temporary signs will be processed through the Graphic Specialist.

    Date Approved by LMT:

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