Friday, 11 February 2011

Visual metaphors for libraries/librarians/information professionals

After the agonies of choosing images to use for my Ignite talk, and with a fairly whacky idea forming for an entry into the LISNPN library advocacy competition, I've had visual metaphors on my mind these last few days.
A scan of a human brain used to illustrate an article about librarianship
What can replace pictures of books?

What images can we use to illustrate and promote the work of the modern-day library and information world? Time was that a picture of a shelf of books, a card catalogue, or a set of library steps, would suffice to create in the viewer an impression of library-ness. But if we want to convey something of the multi-faceted nature of library work, of the focus on information evaluation and organization, of the myriad formats and sources used, how can that be done? Is there a single visual image that conveys the idea 'information'?

I'd be very interested to hear people's ideas. Do you think that we need something more than books? Can you do better than the Guardian's brain?  A few people have commented on the aptness of the yarn slides (10 and 11) in my 'Why Libraries are Great' slidedeck; is there a way to express that idea more succinctly?


  1. Was musing on this myself when in liasion with a design company we had to come up with a new brand for Information & Library Services here at Judge last year. In the end we went for an image that I hope says data feeds, information flow and immediacy As we're part of the business school we also needed it to feel a bit corporate and a bit business-y. As I'm in the business of business information I also use globes and matrix-style-y data images a lot, but that's probably less relevant generically. Shame tourist information has the monopoly on the 'i'.

  2. Books are not extinct, librarians/users are not dinosaurs, and libraries are not Jurassic Park. Show books, but also new forms of accessing information. Show the information professionals doing their various tasks, and have images of people enjoying the experience of being in a library. Share the beauty of libraries and the people there!

    Then there are images of the brain, the web, computers, knitting wool...

  3. I guess it also depends on to whom you are trying to appeal with the image - age group and the kind of associations you want to encourage.

  4. Difficult, actually. Picture of super-modern library? Or an assemblage of old & new technology? I tried to summarise an off-duty moment of my own but it doesn't help much:-

  5. I always find word clouds of conference tweets, reports etc. a great illustration of the kind of issues that our profession talks about, rather than the things that are commonly associated with our profession. Sure, they're a very text-heavy image, but hey, we're talking libraries here, which are quite text-heavy (although not exclusively so).