Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Branding Helped to Promote Our Library and Its Technology: An Overall Identity-Building Program Really Impacted the Library's Web Site and Increased Its Usage

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Branding Helped to Promote Our Library and Its Technology: An Overall Identity-Building Program Really Impacted the Library's Web Site and Increased Its Usage

Article excerpt

If the terms "brand" and "identity" conjure up an image of golden arches or a white swoosh, you're in marketing mode. And if you have a couple of years, attentive committees, and $30,000 or so, then you have the makings of an effective identity program.


The Saint Paul (Minn.) Public Library and its Friends collaborated to do just this sort of branding. Working on an identity program may sound daunting, but our results have far outweighed the work we put into the process. It has helped us define the purpose of our public relations efforts and why we need to continue them. As publications coordinator for both the Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL) and its Friends group, I was very involved in the project. Work started with a team made up of the library's key administrators and its Public Relations and Communications (PRC) office, plus Friends' staff and the Friends Board's Public Awareness Committee.

Our identity program was heavily woven into the plans for the grand reopening of Saint Paul's Central Library. There was a 2-year-long renovation project that was part of a 5-year planning process; it included a capital campaign that raised $21 million. (More than $200,000 of that came from corporate partners.)

When our Central Library closed down for the renovations in 1999, we stepped back to decide how we would promote not just Central's reopening (scheduled for late 2002), but the entire library system. With 12 branches and one bookmobile, 1999's library system was vastly different than it had been just 10 years before. The system was undergoing physical changes as well as internal structural changes. We were technology. We were retail. We were serving new communities that didn't exist before.

Upon reviewing our current PR materials, we found ourselves awash in mismatched brochures varying in size, color, paper, even logos! A few years before, the library's PRC office had adopted a square-shaped window as an interim logo--years after borrowing the city of St. Paul's logo. Half of our publications didn't bother sporting either logo; some simply had the text "Saint Paul Public Library" in an array of fonts typed at the bottom or scrunched to the side. Signage varied from small and neat to large and exuberant.

This wasn't due to a lack of design skills or time. It was because, for far too long, the library had had no identity to project. How were we supposed to rouse community support for Central's reopening? How could we promote our library system when we weren't sure what it represented? How could we show the public that we are useful, modern, historic, and purposeful?

Our Own Objectives, and Demands for Designers

From strategic planning in 2000, we recognized the need to raise general awareness of the entire library system by creating an identity program and logo. We began in the summer of 2001 by setting our goals for this identity program. We needed to know who the decision makers were. We needed to create a reasonable timeline. We needed a professional firm to create the logo. And we needed to be able to measure the results.

We defined the decision makers as the library director, the PRC office (communications manager, a part-timer in charge of signage, and a part-timer in charge of publications), the Friends' Board (many members are PR professionals), and three or four key library and Friends staff members. We recognized the importance of their "buy-in." Without their endorsement of the identity program, the project would fail.

Even with internal staff involvement, there was still a need for professional designers to create the logo and to expand the brand. A subset of the planning group worked together to send RFPs out to local design firms. The request packages contained an introduction and background of the library; the goals for an identity program; four main objectives; definitions of our audience; and the major tasks and content of the identity program. …

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