For most Americans, the enduring image of the public library is that of rows of books. Yet, the modern library is so much more than what’s on our shelves. Across the nation, public libraries have added new services and expanded their hours, and they are much more like community centers than simply reading rooms.
Today, we offer meeting spaces, technology access, workshops, classes, help with job searches, and business research resources. All over the state of New Jersey, the public library is becoming the center of the community.
In fact, the New York Times sums up our new role eloquently: “No longer just repositories for books, public libraries have reinvented themselves as one-stop community centers that aim to offer something for everyone. In so doing, they are reaffirming their role as an essential part of civic life in America by making themselves indispensable to new generations of patrons.”
But, we have a major challenge: Not everyone knows about this renaissance in the library. In a survey conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, for example, 38% of Americans said they did not know if their library offered online career and job-related resources, even though 62% of libraries around the country do.
If we want to attract more visitors to our libraries, our brands should reflect our new role. As we reinvent our spaces, we also need to update our brands to help everyone in our communities recognize and understand the full range of services we offer.
But what does this mean, exactly? Branding efforts can be monumentally expensive, and unlike the big consumer brands, many libraries don’t have the resources to commit to such a big project. We’d rather focus our budgets on more services for the community.
The good news is that there’s a lot we can do on our own, without a substantial budget. Here are just a few ideas for redefining your brand with limited resources. (Keep an eye out: We’ll cover many of these topics in detail in upcoming posts.)
- Survey your community and get their feedback about your brand. Tools like SurveyMonkey are easy to use and free. Be sure to gather perspectives of both users and non-users alike.
- Redefine your brand from the inside out. Work with your team to brainstorm and write a new mission, promise, and customer experience.
- Write a new brand story. Storytelling is a highly effective marketing strategy. Success stories – for example, how the library has helped a job seeker find work – are more likely to be shared widely and can help people better understand what you do.
- Ask your community to design a new logo. Launch a contest, as the Monmouth County Library did in 2014, to find a new design that better reflects the full range of services.
Keep in mind that the most important aspect of any re-branding effort is involving the public. Be sure to gather feedback about your ideas before rolling out a revamped brand. Gaining buy-in from the community, board members, and staff will help your new look and message be a greater success.