Wednesday, September 07, 2005

There was a Sign

I've discovered that there are four steps for any successful sign.

1. See the Sign
2. Read the Sign
3. Believe the Sign
4. Do what the Sign FREAKING SAYS

Achieving a successful sign:

1. See the Sign: Place the sign someplace where it cannot be ignored. Best practice: make it a tripping hazard. If they don't pay attention, they sprain an ankle.

2. Read the sign: Make the text as large and as simple as possible. My motto: Keep it simple, stupid. If you have to read more than four words, the sign is too long. Smaller explanatory text is acceptable, but the gist of the sign should be achieved in as few words as possible.

3. Believe the sign: The language of the sign should be authoritative. No pleases or thank yous. It should be a command, but still they will question it. The best way to answer is a very firm yes without smiling whenever they ask, "Do I really have to?" A sarcastic reply is tempting such as, "No, you alone are exempt. In fact I'm going to update the sign right now, and it will say everyone but you." or "Nah, we just put that sign up for fun. We think it's funny when people actually do what it says," but try to resist. If they do not believe in the sign, they are likely to take your sarcastic comment at face value and then tell all their friends to not believe in the sign. Conversely, if they believe in the sign, they will convert others into believing in the sign too.

4. Do what the sign FREAKING SAYS: Even if the first three steps are successful, it doesn't matter unless the fourth is achieved. Punitive measures can be taken to ensure compliance with the sign. I recommend throwing things at them.

What sign made me such an expert?



Library X is restricted to University Z students, staff, and faculty from 12am-7:30am.

It's amazing how they'll either walk around the sign after almost tripping over it and still not look at it; look at the sign and just not read it; read the sign, look at me, and shrug their shoulders (I throw the hardest at them); or they'll ask me, "Are you serious about seeing ID?" Sigh.



Blogger Katya said...

I just ran across your site from a comment made on feelgood librarian's site. I like it -- I always thought I would like to work your hours.

6:41 PM, September 07, 2005  
Anonymous Spike said...


I get the same sorta thing when I put stuff in front of my students and say "read this". They look at it suspiciously and ask what it says.

Some people seem very nervous that they'll over-use their brain.

7:57 PM, September 07, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the South Carolina public library from hell, we had a large sign on a metal stand in front of the fire exit door: Fire Exit Only Do Not Enter Alarm Will Sound.

I have watched people move the sign, which was blocking their way, so they could go out the door, and then watched them be very surprised when a loud,piercing alarm sound shattered their eardrums.

Psycho library director's solution was to lock the fire exit.

The day I quit I called the fire marshall and reported the locked fire exit.


9:42 AM, September 21, 2005  

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