The Design Librarian: graphic design as an essential skill

Document Type

Conference Paper


This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only


Information Science, Library science

Publication Details

CONUL Annual Conference 2018


Developing the Library Workforce

Emerging and future skills required in the Library workforce.

The Design Librarian -graphic design as an essential skill.

In 2017 the Library carried out an audit of Library signage. In line with graphic design best practice, institute guidelines, the Official Languages Act 2003, branding and design guidelines were developed. Design guidelines for people with a disability were also incorporated. A team was established to look after all signage design, marketing, and social media. Over the last year, the team has developed a cohesive Library visual identity that promotes our services and resources across a range of Library and college-wide communication channels. All members of this team are self-taught in graphic design.

Wakimoto (2015) surveyed librarians who had some responsibility for graphic design and found that 64% of respondents (primarily academic librarians) described themselves as self-taught (Lehnen & Artemchik, 2016). Librarians often become de facto graphic designers for their libraries, taking responsibility for designing signage, handouts, brochures, web pages, and many other promotional, instructional, and wayfinding documents. However, the majority of librarians with graphic design responsibilities are not trained as graphic designers (Wakimoto, 2015, p.171). Graphic design is often seen as an add-on to a successful promotion when it is actually integral to engaging the end user. Preconscious judgments take place based on just aesthetics and this occurs before any reading or other cognitive processes take place (Furman, 2009). Visual literacy, marketing and outreach, web design and UX are well represented in LIS literature in comparison to the dearth of literature concerning Librarians as graphic designers.

Graphic design skills are essential if Library staff who are engaged in communication and outreach are to succeed in creating user resources and promotional material that meets best practice. I argue that graphic design should become part of the curricula of LIS courses and that formal graphic design training should be offered to any Library staff engaged in communication and outreach.

Furman, S. (2009). Credibility | Usability.gov. [online] Usability.gov. Available at: https://www.usability.gov/get-involved/blog/2009/10/credibility.html [Accessed 14 Jan. 2018].

Lehnen, C., & Artemchik, T. (2016). Graphic Design Tools. Tips and Trends Instructional Technologies Committee. Available at: http://acrl.ala.org/IS/wp-content/uploads/summer2016.pdf

Wakimoto, D. (2015). Librarians and Graphic Design: Preparation, Roles, and Desired Support. Public Services Quarterly, 11(3), pp.171-182. DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2015.1054545

CONUL_Design Librarian_Presentation script_sarahanne_kennedy.pdf (55 kB)
Presentation script

Poster 1 The Design Librarian.jpg (3332 kB)
Poster 1: The Design Librarian

Poster 2 Graphic Design for the nondesigner.jpg (3492 kB)
Poster 2: Graphic Design for the non-designer

CONUL 2018 Handout.pdf (3223 kB)
Presentation Handout

Sarah Anne Conul.pptx (821 kB)
Conference PowerPoint presentation.

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