Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Sign for Libraries


In the era of smart phones, GPS, Google Maps, and library web pages, locating a public library in a community is a snap. However, for more than three decades green and white highway signs with a stylized figure reading a book have been one of the more effective means of finding a library in an unfamiliar location. I was reminded of this on some recent trips around Wisconsin to install library exhibits for the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. The sign in the picture above is being used to guide the way to the South Milwaukee Public Library. The logo on the sign was adopted as the national symbol for libraries by the Council of the American Library Association at the ALA Conference in Philadelphia in 1982 on the recommendation of the ALA Presidential Task Force on a National Library Symbol which had been appointed by ALA President Betty Stone. The appointment of the Presidential Task Force grew out of a recommendation of the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries for "adopting a library symbol for the Nation". The Presidential Task Force was aided in its work by a sign system for libraries developed by the Western Maryland Public Libraries (now the Western Maryland Regional Library) which included the recommended logo. Mary S. Mallery of Western Maryland Public Libraries was the originator of the idea for a sign system for libraries and Ralph E. DeVore designed the library symbol and other symbols that were included in the sign system. A manual titled A Sign System for Libraries by Mallery and DeVore was published by ALA in 1982 as part of the ALA Conference roll out for the national symbol. Originally the background color for the outdoor signs was to be blue but was changed to green to conform to national standards for informational highway signs. ALA has a fact sheet on the library symbol on its website.

5 comments:

Mary Mallery said...

It is an honor to learn that the library symbol that I thought up and Ralph created is still a major representation of library services. We never dreamed that would be the case. I have enjoyed some of the adaptations that have been made - computer in hand, Cowboy hat etc. I look forward to other adaptations as libraries embrace this digital world. Mary Mallery (long retired but still keeping touch)

David Broughall said...

It's less of an anachronism than the icon they use in MS word for Save: a 3 1/2 inch floppy disc. When was the last time you saw one, never mind used one?

Mary Mallery said...

I was pleased to learn that the logo that I thought up and Ralph designed is still considered a useful symbol for libraries. It was not something we envisioned would happen when we designed "A sign system for libraries". Its' lasting for three decades is representative of the endurance of libraries.

Larry T. Nix said...

Thanks Mary for one of the best ideas ever! I'm pleased to share your wonderful contribution to America's public libraries.

Denise Rayman said...

I just uploaded an image of the National Library Symbol this afternoon to the ALA Archives digitized poster collection, I thought you might find it interesting! It is from 1983 (so right after it was created) and shows the original blue blackground.

http://imagesearchnew.library.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/alaposters/id/144