Find Your Way – Draw People into Your Library & Back Again

Quick Trumps Scenic

When you start thinking about how easy it is for people to navigate your library, picture how you’d normally find your way if you were on a road trip. For example, when I make a long distance trek with my family, our car is stocked with maps and navigational devices for reference. In most cases, the quickest route trumps the scenic route. The same is true for your library.

Most patrons view going to the library as a transaction instead of an event. How many of your patrons seem like they are on a mission to find “something” or are there to pick up a reserved item and be on their way vs. there to explore the wonders of the library for several hours? Either way, you can guide patrons down a path of discovery.


Wayshowing is a concept of using signage, graphics and furnishings to welcome, orient and guide visitors throughout the library. Strategic placement, effective design and use of retail best practices enables patrons to discover programs, services and spaces they didn’t expect, bringing them back for new reasons.

You use wayfinding in one form or another on a daily basis. If I’m in a new city with time to explore, I get the lay of the land and head out the hotel door with a list of attractions, a map and comfy walking shoes to take in the sights. When I’m back home, running errands and pressed for time, I tend to go to the places I’m most familiar with, factoring in drive time, traffic and proximity to my other stops, so I can quickly get in and out. Again, efficiency rules.

Say I’m new to your library though, how would I find my way? Just like your patrons, I’d try to orient myself to your building based on what I know as well as my expectations. A case in point is when I recently went to a new grocery store on my way home from a work event. My understanding of how grocery stores are normally setup helped me adapt fairly well to the new store. However, I sacrificed efficiency for convenience because the layout was different than what I was used to. I made assumptions about where things would be and was proved wrong. As a result, I sought out signs and clues and had to ask staff for help.

Common Denominator

Regardless of the situation, navigating and understanding places depends on maps, common language, past experiences and contextual clues. Over time, my experiences have given me a knowledgebase for understanding information hierarchies. Just like your patrons, I apply this instinctual navigation system to new situations and draw analogies. However, there are times when this isn’t enough because things change. My experiences are based on history, but I need to be in the present.

Strategic signage and graphics can go a long way in helping people know where they are and where they’re going. They connect people with the present, telling them where meeting rooms or bathrooms are located or where the Children’s Section is. It’s the foundation for efficiency, self-empowerment and a positive experience.

Looking for more support?

View our webinar, Wayfinding the San José Way presented by Ruth Barefoot of San José Public Library. Later this year, we’ll be improving the shopping experience on, featuring new products, best practice information, planning tools and resources. If you have more immediate needs, Demco and our team of library experts are available to help you, whether you need to supplement your existing signage or develop a comprehensive plan. To get started on your signage plan, call 800.747.7561.


Angie Schoeneck

Angie Schoeneck

Growth Strategy Manager at Demco, Inc.
Angie is the Growth Strategy Manager at Demco. She focuses on the evolving needs and trends in education and library environments, their patrons and communities, and translating these into relevant products and services. She has an extensive background in new product development, product management and business process improvement.