After I left Douglas County, I teamed up with David Starck, one of my former Board members. He's also a gifted graphic designer. He approached me with a business proposition: he'd noticed that a lot of libraries were distinctly amateur in their approach to "managing their brand." Suppose we were to offer an audit service? We could come in, review all their collateral (those advertising items that even in the digital age libraries generate by the ton), take a tour through their buildings, then review their long range plans. We would try to answer the question: have you aligned your story (the way you present yourself to your community) with your strategy?
Reviewing the collateral is enlightening. It's amazing how often just these three things, the library envelope, the library stationary, and the library card itself, have different fonts and spacing, different logos (or the coloring of the logo), and sometimes even different library names. One of the foundations of "brand management" is graphic consistency. If the library itself can't keep it straight, how can the public?
The walk-through of the buildings is also eye-opening. A long range plan (right there on the library's website) says children's services is key. But walk into the library, and you can't even see where children's services might be. Instead you see copy machines and computers. But technology isn't addressed in the long range plan.
My 30+ years as a practicing librarian help me see the issues in building layout. David's been in graphic design about as long. Both of us are well versed in library planning. Together, we bring a truly fresh eye to the library's gaps between how it presents itself, and how it says it wants to present itself.
Then what? After touching base with the director, we write up a report summarizing not only what we saw, but what we think a library might do about it. There's the easy/cheap option, a middle option, and the high end. Sometimes, the cheap option is all that's necessary, and we say so. So the library gets an affordable, comprehensive look at its brand.
What do we mean by "affordable?" For most libraries, we offer the product for between $2,500 and $5,000 (depending upon the library's size and number of facilities).
Who needs it?
I'm tempted to say, at a time when we're competing for mindshare and funding with all kinds of businesses, that the answer is every library.
But suppose you're thinking about going to the voters. Talk to us two years ahead of time. We'll clean things up for you.
Or suppose you're just hopelessly outdated, and don't know where to start. We'll produce a road map, with all the low-hanging fruit clearly identified.
David and I both work fast. Typically, we can wrap it all up in about 6 weeks. Interested? Feel free to contact me at jlarue @ jlarue . com.
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