Original photo by Buffy J. Hamilton; CC license at http://bit.ly/AabHQ1

I was tooling around my former hometown of Alpharetta, Georgia last weekend and could not resist the opportunity to photograph a sign at the corner of Main Street and Mayfield Road with the beloved universal symbol for library.  The image you see is the one currently recognized and approved by the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration as the official symbol for libraries on road signage.   As I thought about how libraries are not only about books and reading, but also places to learn, create, and share, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is time to either update or create additional new universal symbols for libraries?  What would you as a librarian choose for a symbol?  More importantly, your patrons?

10 thoughts on “Time to Reboot the Universal Symbol for Library?

  1. Well, I would propose that we perhaps make a small bow in the direction of tradition
    and not unhesitatingly adopt the fashion of the day for a symbol. How about, you
    know, a book? I realise that doctors use modern technology, but they seem
    to be OK with the caduceus.


  2. Interesting idea! If I wanted the symbol to reflect what goes on in my school library, then I’d have the person in the symbol hold the book with one hand and a phone or iPad on the other. Oh, and they’d be wearing headphones, of course!


  3. A multi-armed woman (sort of like those Indian Goddesses) holding a phone in one hand, a book in another, a tablet PC, …..some symbol for all of the many things we librarians do….maybe we need a patron goddess


    1. How about Athena? Seshat? [Egyptian goddess of wisom writing and scribes] How about her hubby Thoth?

      Or a symbol for a PC, a book, and the alchemical symbol for amalgamtion, all in side the alchemcial symbol for crucible?


  4. For a little inspiration, have a look at this redesign of the concept of teaching: http://hyperakt.com/work-detail/293. The work was designed by Hyperakt through Studio 360 (http://www.studio360.org/2012/jan/20/teacher-redesign-revealed/), a program that engages graphic designers to “rethink cherished symbols.” Whether or not the outcome works for everyone, it’s interesting to go through the process of rethinking what a symbol has to communicate.


  5. A sybol with many overlapping elements, something like the Olympics symbol, book in one, computer in the other, group collaborating, etc. Interesting post!


  6. Here in Australia, we have a black symbol… just a simple drawing of a book (upright, and partly open, a few pages visible) with an ‘L’ on the front cover.

    I don’t think that it needs to be changed… that’s like saying that the word ‘Library’ is out of date because we have (offer, provide) more services than just lending books.


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