Hyperlinked Loria

November 20, 2020


Filed under: Uncategorized — by @ 7:17 pm

When I first began my job at my library, I was warned often by my colleagues not to use exclamation points in any of my writing, whether it was an email, flyer, poster- you name it. I found this a bit odd but I listened to their warnings nonetheless. It wasn’t until I included the dreaded exclamation point in one of my emails that I began to understand why the punctuation mark was to be avoided- I was sent an email from my director that simply said “You’re now down to two exclamation points that can be used for your career at this library” (or something along those lines). I asked my colleagues if she was kidding, and to my surprise, she was not. My director believes that a librarian should only be allotted a total of three exclamation points that can be used throughout their career at the library and should be used very sparingly. Though a bit extreme, I believe her point (no pun intended) is that we need to be concise in our writing and let any emotion or tone come through with the choice of our words and not our choice of punctuation. I must say, especially when I often communicate with children, adhering to the three exclamation point rule has been challenging (and I’ll admit to having broken that rule quite a bit) but I think the moral of this story stands true- communication is vital and we need to think before we speak (or type). I was reminded of this situation when I read Professor Stephens article “Library Emoji” that shows how language has evolved and blended with the digital age.

Stephens refers to a Wired article written by Clive Thompson. He notes that emojis add “an emotional tenor to hard copy,” and I feel that’s what might be missing from emails that read too harshly or come off cold (I wonder if my director would deem emojis a suitable substitute for exclamation points). Throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic, new challenges have certainly arised (in more ways than one), but particularly with communication. My colleague, who used to just pop over to my side of the office to ask a question was now texting or calling me throughout the day. Emails developed a “tone” that often upset me which I now realize is a tone my own brain implied. I found that an email with a gif or an emoji was reassurance that the person sending it was in good spirits and not to read too much into something that simply wasn’t there. As emojis have become their own language, we have adopted some programming that interprets this new version of the Wingdings font. We’ve run “Guess the Book Title” with emojis on our Instagram account with enthusiastic responses from our patrons. Though on the surface an emoji is just a symbol that represents a feeling, I think it shows how communication and reading is transforming- just as libraries are.

Sample of Emoji Book Titles

In Cory Doctorow’s article, “Libraries and Makerspaces: a Match made in heaven,” he writes, “Public libraries have always been places where skilled information professionals assisted the general public with the eternal quest to understand the world.” Understanding the world is a tremendous task, especially when the world changes at the drop of a hat (let the use of emojis in written communication stand as proof of that). As the world changes, libraries run right alongside those changes. For example, in Luba Vangelova’s article, “What does the next generation school library look like?” she writes about how her library was no longer a place of silent study, that it was abuzz with the sounds of learning and collaboration. I remember a few years ago, a patron emailed me to tell me that “the children’s department staff needed to implement a shushing policy,” and complained that the room was always too loud to get quiet work done. I apologized to her, referred her to our quiet study areas, but I explained that the children’s department has always been and will continue to be a “shush-free” zone. We welcome the sounds of collaboration (although we will remind teens that there are young ears listening and to keep the topics clean).

So how does a noisy children’s department link back to the use of emojis? Looking at it through the COVID-19 lens, I think emojis are the visual equivalent of a noisy room- conveying tone, emotion, thought, and expression during a time when communication is challenged. I’m glad to see that libraries are embracing this form of communication as it contributes to keeping our library world buzzing.


“Libraries and Makerspaces: a match made in heaven” by Cory Doctorow: https://boingboing.net/2013/02/25/libraries-and-makerspaces-a-m.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

“What Does a Next Generation School Library Look Like?” by Luba Vangelova: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/36326/what-does-the-next-generation-school-library-look-like

“LibraryEmoji” by Michael Stephens: Stephens, M. (2016). LibraryEmoji. Library Journal.


  1. Ashley – This post was really thought-provoking for me. My immediate reaction to your director’s approach to exclamation marks was to be appalled. But you made a clear case for the concept and I think I will reflect on it a bit before deciding on whether I agree or disagree for myself. Admittedly, I don’t use exclamation points in my work emails, usually because I am afraid it will be interpreted that I am upset about something.

    Your story about the shushing in the children’s library brought up some sadness. My library has been so quiet this year since we have mostly been closed to the public. I miss the sounds so much. I always equated my library with a retail store during the holidays. It was always so boisterous and if you listened closely you could always pick out 2-3 different languages being spoken at any given time. I look forward to those loud busy days at the library coming back someday.

    Comment by Amber Bales — November 21, 2020 @ 1:19 am |Reply

    • Hi Amber! Thank you for your response. If it makes you feel any better, my initial response to the exclamation point rule was also in the realm of being appalled, and now it’s become a bit of a joke among the staff. I understand her point, but I think it’s a pretty intense way to go about making it. I’m sorry to bring up some sadness, but I can totally sympathize. Our children’s room has been painfully quiet since we’ve reopened and I suspect it will stay that way for a while longer. I miss our old hustle and bustle too but I’m trying to keep my sights set on when that can happen again.

      Comment by Ashley Loria — November 21, 2020 @ 2:54 am |Reply

  2. “You’re now down to two exclamation points that can be used for your career at this library”

    No. Just no. That makes me sad.

    Your post makes me 😀

    Also: 💻📚🆒👍🌎☮️💜

    Comment by Michael Stephens — November 23, 2020 @ 5:03 pm |Reply

  3. I agree with Michael’s “Just no” about the three exclamation point limit. If it were me hearing this from the person most responsible for setting the tone for a (public, I gather) library I would not be sad, I would be angry. Not having met your library director, I glean from this rule of hers that she is stiff/inflexible, maybe a micromanager, and likely a writing snob. Certainly exclamation points shouldn’t be used willy nilly (“willy nilly” probably being a no-no term according to your director), but the range of communications among library staff, as well as those outside of staff circles (library users, stakeholders, pretty much everyone else) is huge. I think it’s telling that this three strikes rule is a joke among staff because it can’t possibly be taken seriously; it’s arbitrary, and would make me fear the director is capable of other arbitrary decisions. Rant complete. >:^(

    Comment by Kay Wolverton Ito — November 23, 2020 @ 7:57 pm |Reply

    • Hi Kay,
      I totally appreciate your rant! I like that you mention the range of communication being so wide that you can’t possibly put any kind of restriction on it. Your gleanings were mostly correct and yes, it’s incredibly frustrating to handle. It’s refreshing to hear from others outside my library who agree that this style of “leadership” is not constructive nor beneficial to staff.

      Comment by Ashley Loria — November 25, 2020 @ 4:15 am |Reply

  4. Hi Ashley –
    This is a well written post. I agree with the other comments that your director’s rule is ridiculous. Before emojies punctuation help convent emotion and intent – and technically still do. Limiting the use of the exclamation mark actually would limit people’s ability to properly and accurately portray meaning. The overuse of exclamation points can actually give insight – if someone is usually pretty calm but then follows up with a lot of exclamation points they are pretty passionate about what they are conveying and the content. I think emojies are enhancing punctuation and conveying tone better.
    Thanks for the post!

    Comment by Jennie Tobler-Gaston — November 27, 2020 @ 10:08 pm |Reply

    • Hi Jennie,
      I agree- I think people are as unique as the way in which they write. So if a person decides they want to use a dozen exclamation points, why not? That might be the best way that they can express what they’re trying to say.

      Comment by Ashley Loria — December 1, 2020 @ 6:50 pm |Reply

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