National Library Symbol/Library Symbol Highway Sign
ALA Library Fact Sheet 30
The National Library Symbol, which depicts a generic human figure reading a book, was originally designed by Ralph E. DeVore for use in the Western Maryland Public Libraries.
National Library Symbol | 2009 Laptop Version of National Library Symbol
At the 1982 Annual Conference of the American Library Association (ALA), at the recommendation of the ALA Presidential Task Force on a National Library Symbol, the ALA Council officially endorsed the image (see the ALA Committee on Legislation Resolution to Endorse A National Library Symbol) and does promote its use (see Section 50.13 of the ALA Policy Manual). The Task Force had specifically sought a standard symbol that could be used to identify all types of libraries, hoping to increase public awareness of the institution of libraries through the symbol’s utilization on library directional signs and promotional materials.
As specified in the Purpose and Selection sections of the Resolution to Endorse A National Library Symbol (PDF):
“The purpose of a national library symbol is to increase public awareness of libraries through widespread use of a standardized symbol on library directional signs and promotional materials. The symbol is designed primarily for use on exterior library signs appearing on streets, highways, campuses, and buildings; but it can also be used by individual libraries on newsletters, posters, booklists, library cards, bookmarks, letterhead, and other promotional materials. . .
The symbol triggers instant recognition of a library through a graphic representation that people instantly associate with libraries–the book and reader. It does not attempt to capture the essence of the modern library or represent the range of its resources. In the task force’s opinion. this would be impossible to do in a clean. easily recognized image. Once the public is cued to the presence of a library by the basic symbol, additional symbols, signs, and promotional materials can be used to further educate users about the full range of library resources.”
Also noted in the resolution is that this specific image was selected because it met the criteria for “a good library symbol,” including that it is “capable of modification if the nature of libraries should change significantly in the future.”
And so we come to the end of the fact sheets produced by the ALA HQ library. I’m very grateful to the staff of the ALA Library for putting all of these resources together. It is my hope that everyone that has read this series will find at least one of the fact sheets useful in their community or work place. Take advantage of the work that has been done on your behalf.