Wayfinding in libraries: Can problems be predicted?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The main library at the authors university campus, with its large size and multiple-level structures, is challenging for patrons to navigate. Requests for directions are among the most frequently posed questions at help desks in this library. As a first step toward improving wayfinding aids, such as maps or signs, we took a spatial science perspective of combining spatial and behavioral approaches to reveal objectively areas where wayfinding problems occur. To this end, we employed formal spatial descriptions of the environment addressing visibility, layout complexity, and connectivity. The term coined in the literature for these methods is space syntax. Additionally, we used a behavioral approach to investigate actual wayfinding behaviors of library patrons and compared these behaviors with the results of the space syntax analysis. The results show that a building's layout complexity and visual access potentially predicts how well patrons find their goals (books and other materials). Other aspects such as signs or individual characteristics of patrons were also found to play a role in understanding human wayfinding performance. The goal of this study was to broadly explore wayfinding problems in relation to the environment and to individual characteristics of patrons, such as their familiarity and sense of direction. Our approach introduces an objective perspective to assess wayfinding problems in libraries. Thereby, it provides potentially valuable information for library administrators towards the improvement of the design of library wayfinding systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-38
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Map and Geography Libraries
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Library and Information Sciences


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