Survey the websites for public libraries in the United States, and how many do you think feature some kind of book as their logo? It’s got to be well over 50% of them.
Some of my own favorite library systems use book logos. Take a look:
These are fantastic libraries that do great work in their communities. I follow their work avidly. But seriously—what’s with the book logos?
I’ve developed an almost visceral aversion to seeing book logos on library websites. Why?
- Book logos for public libraries are generic. A book logo tells me nothing meaningful about your library—who you are or how you fit into your unique community. As a friend of mine put it, “You might as well be just another bookstore.”
- Book logos reinforce the stereotype that libraries are only about books. Popular media loves to prognosticate the death of libraries—and this death is frequently posited as the inevitable consequence of the death of print. But the death of print only leads to the death of libraries if libraries are only about books.
Those of us who work in libraries know that we’re about far more than just books, as do many of our patrons. How much ink—both physical and virtual—has been spilled by those of us who argue for the urgent need to change this popular misconception?
The persistence of book logos doesn’t do libraries any good. They may even be doing us some harm.
Can we please stop using book logos? Can we get a little more creative with them?
Some examples of non-book logos, in no particular order:
- Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas
I’m not entirely sure what their logo says about them but at least it’s not a book. It’s a pleasingly minimalist work of art.
- Douglas County Libraries in Colorado
Once again, I’m not sure what their logo tells me about this library system specifically but I like that it’s unique. I can see how the lines are reminiscent of the hills of Colorado, and also somewhat reminiscent of wheat blowing in the wind. I think they’ve chosen interesting colors.
Of particular note are these:
- Denver Public Library in Denver, Colorado
Their logo that represents intersection, which I like very much.
- Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, New York
They’ve gone without a logo at all, choosing instead to do something different with their name. I like this approach.
- Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Kansas
I’m not entirely enamored of this one, as it looks a bit too much like the logo for Goodwill. It’s also not readily apparent what it’s supposed to be. I had concluded that it’s simply an abstract design, but then I saw the photo of their building in the footer of their site and realized that their logo is a section of the building profile. Once you’ve seen the building, this logo becomes instantly recognizable.
And, of course: