The Librarian Behind This Viral Poster Says It Will Hang Indefinitely

"We wanted to minimize the barriers to the information that might help them."

The internet can be a trash pile of wrong information. Years-old, one-dimensional opinions posted on web forums, along with blog posts of insanity presented as advice, represent a minefield — to say nothing of the cerebral crater that is social media. Compounding the problem, this bad intel often surfaces during Google searches on life’s most important, stressful questions, the ones where wisdom really counts. Meanwhile, libraries, full of reliable information, are the ideal antidote. But, walking up to the information desk and asking, “Excuse me, I’m looking for your books on drugs, incest, and acne” is just not going to happen.

Enter places like the Fayetteville Free Library near Syracuse, New York, which received a measure of viral fame this week for taking the innovative step to bring uncomfortable topics out into the open with the below sign:


A Reddit user posted a photo of the above sign, hanging in the library’s “teen space,” that points out exactly where to find books on those “tough topics,” based on their Dewey Decimal number.

The photo had received more than 88,000 upvotes on Reddit by Thursday night.

“Teens don’t even have to necessarily check the book out of the library; they can just walk into their space,” Margaret Kingsport, director of Innovative Family Services for the library, tells Inverse. “They don’t have to feel like somebody’s watching them or judging them for having checked them out or wanting to read this topic. They can just find out what they need to know and have the information.”

Kingsport says another librarian saw the “tough topics” list on a bookmark made by the Lewis & Clark Library in Helena, Montana, at a conference and the library decided to turn it into a poster.

Reactions to the poster have been mixed, Kingsport tells Inverse.

“Everyone who’s commented on [the sign] to me personally has had a positive reaction — ‘It’s great that you have this sign here so that people can find what they’re looking for,’” she says, before adding: “There have been a few parents who are less excited about it, because they see it as a one-stop place where their kid can go find all this ‘terrible content that they’re going to read now, and they’re going to act on it.’”

“We are here to make sure that our community members are connected with the information that they’re searching for,” Kingsport says. “They want to know something and we want them to know it.”

As for how long the poster will hang in the library? Kingsport says, “Until it’s no longer needed. So, indefinitely pretty much.”

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