Rebranding Your Library

I attended OCLC’s “Extreme Makeover” seminar on Friday, here at the ALA midwinter conference. It was definitely a worthwhile event even if it wasn’t exactly geared to the academic library segment. Still, I picked up a few good ideas I’ll be thinking about for my library. I won’t go into great detail about the session because the folks over at It’s All Good have lots of detailed notes on what each speaker had to say.

I found what Jennifer Rice and Patricia Martin had to say about rebranding and defending your brand in times of competition had the most value. Jennifer, in particular, told us about the six most important consumer trends and how that impacts us. This led to the development of a matrix for determining what your library brand should be (hint: a learning community). These two also touched on themes of simplicity/complexity in terms of user wants and needs and giving users an “experience.” We know that users want simplicity, but sometime our library brand requires them to encounter complexity. How do we balance the two without causing the user to go to a competitor? Although the speakers talked about giving the user an experience (their examples were based on companies that do this, for example, buying coffee at Starbucks isn’t just about drinking coffee, it’s about having an “experience”), I think they were talking more about sensations. A library experience, I should think, reaches the user at a deeper level. It connects with something he or she is passionate about. How do we deliver that sort of experience.

The final speaker Antony Brewerton is known for the marketing campaigns he does for his library. But as the only academic librarian (and only true librarian) on the bill, he did little to connect reaching users to collaborating with faculty. It’s great to have fancy brochures of the type shown from his library, but if we do a good job of connecting with faculty and encouraging them to drive students to the library’s resources through assignments and associated instruction opportunities, I think that will go much farther in helping academic libraries reach their user community – and avoid marginalization and irrelevance – something that was mentioned more than a few times in this symposium.

Let’s hope OCLC keeps offering these good programs at ALA events.

4 thoughts on “Rebranding Your Library

  1. One thing we need to bear in mind as we “rebrand” is that if we adopt a particular look, feel, experience we run the risk of alienating those who don’t relate well to that refurbished brand.

    I recently read a fascinating facinating article comparing user behavior in public libraries versus large bookstores. (Mckechnie, Lynne, et al. “Covered Beverages Now Allowed: Public Libraries and Book Superstores.” Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences 28.3 (2004): 39-51.) Among the interesting findings was that there was a far more diverse population using the public library than the bookstore, the coffee they brought in was not pricey Starbucks, but rather from a fast food outlet (since it was Canada, it was from Timmy’s, not MickyD’s) and they seemed to be both more relaxed in their interactions with each other (greater sense of ownership of the space) and more likely to speak to staff. And over 60% of people observed left the library with books compared to 16% leaving the bookstore. (Of course, there is a price differential at work – but still, I was impressed.)

    Anyway, a note I made to self for my academic library – make sure that a new brand, whether going for a “sacred space” look or an upscale shopping mall look, or high tech, doesn’t inadvertantly signal to some “this isn’t your place.” We need particularly to pay attention to those who already may feel marginalized or irrelevant when they try to use the library.

    Frankly, I’m less worried about how the library feels than how our users (and potential users) feel.

  2. Goodness, I hardly ever leave comments on blogs and here I am again! Barbara makes a good point about

  3. Whoops…sorry. Hit a button way too quickly….as I was saying…makes a good point about being aware of alienating people when redesigning library spaces. Mind you, not doing anything is just as likely to please no one. And I am reminded of some not so successful rebranding exercises: Cadillac, for example. In an attempt to draw in a younger buyer, the successful brand that appealed to an older buyer became a hybrid that appealed to neither.

    I can’t imagine that comfortable, well-lit, pleasant, easy-to-navigate spaces with friendly staff would alienate anyone.

  4. Except those connoiseurs of crabbiness. (Are there any?)

    Seriously, the choice of coffee vendors just had never occured to me. Starbucks would appeal to a different group than, say, MacDonalds or Tim Horton’s and people who can’t afford a three buck coffee confection may (?) read significance into its being hosted by the library and feel as if they’re entering some boutique cultural space that doesn’t have them in mind.

    I’m not advocating for MacDough or Starsky’s, mind you … though lightening up about food and drink policies is something I do think is important to making libraries hospitable.

    It’s a little easier in an academic library than in a public one to decide what would appeal. Just ask the students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *