*Update: I expected this to be posted when I hit the “Publish” button. Which it was, using the date I created the the first draft. I love WordPress but sometimes I wonder what the developers were thinking. So I’m manually editing the dates of this article and the one after it to when they were actually published. I apologize if you see them twice.*

Here it is, the first post in the series I’ve been working on since this new design went live last summer. When they’re finished, I’ll go back through and make a master post of all the links.

My first topic is the icon or favicon. They’re small things, usually only noticed when you go looking for a website in a bookmark list. But they’re important as the most recognizable part of your design, the one users remember to find your site faster. When I was finishing this latest redesign I got to the point where I needed to make a new set of icons and hit a brick wall. In a way it’s the same wall I’ve hit several times before with this site.

I’ve never been able to come up with a symbol of librarianship I was fully comfortable with. The book imagery most commonly associated with libraries has a lot going for it. It’s a well-established and flexible metaphor with many positive connotations. But there are negative aspects as well. For one thing, the concept of a library as only a place that stores print books is one that is already making problems with funding.

Icon of a question mark with an upper case "L" at the bottom.

While libraries are still places to find knowledge, that information now takes many forms and many libraries are trying to move away from the traditional image. They certainly offer many other services, most computer and Internet-based. But the problem with choosing a symbol from technology is that technology is still changing and it could quickly become outdated. It also excludes the more traditional services that weren’t necessarily about information.

So I was looking at library logos trying to get ideas of how to represent librarians without using a book and I noticed all of the “Ask a” services using question marks. And I thought why not, aren’t librarians the answer people?

Not just answers to factual questions but adapting to meet the needs of individual communities and the smaller groups within those communities. Libraries have almost always been more than buildings with books and need a more abstract symbol to represent all of the ways we serve our community.

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