Who We Are - Rebranding the Calgary Public Library
Problem StatementWith all libraries facing the challenges of digital rights management, the economic downturn, e-books, etc., the Calgary Public Library decided to examine its brand positioning to ensure the organization continued to resonate with Calgarians. The aim was to develop a brand position that “future proofed” the Library – establishing relationships with people that would serve the organization well no matter what might come as a result of new technologies, trends, or funding levels.
Branding is much more than a logo or a slogan. A brand is the total of everything an audience sees, hears, and experiences about an organization – everything from signage to collections; staff to the online catalogue. The Calgary Public Library launched a comprehensive brand review, which began with over 2,500 hours of customer and non-user focus group research. The results pointed to clear strengths in the organization’s relationship with Calgarians, but also to gaps in the brand of libraries.
With an understanding of the current brand, a new brand vision was developed that reinforced what the Library does right, and set a path to improve in areas where stronger brand relationships would be needed in the future. The new vision identified founding principles the Calgary Public Library’s brand would be built on, such as customer-focused, welcoming to all, and relevant to the community.
Nine key attributes that the Library needed to project to ensure a “future proof” relationship with customers and non-users were outlined. The Library already demonstrated some of these attributes, such as “well connected to the community.” Others, such as “approachability,” were attributes where new tactics would be needed to strengthen the brand.
A brand book, called Who We Are, was created to define the desired future brand for all staff, and reinforce the decisions that were made in controversial areas, such as moving from a “quiet study” tone in branches to an “alive” tone, which a strong majority of people prefer.
Even though most of what was said was positive, it was challenging for the Calgary Public Library to hear unvarnished opinions from citizens about the organization’s brand image. But understanding and responding to how people view and experience their Library ultimately ensures the organization’s continuing success. By positioning itself properly now, while relationships are still solid, the Calgary Public Library will be prepared for whatever opportunities or challenges the future might bring.
Over two dozen changes have been made, or are ongoing, to move the current brand toward the desired new brand. These include nametags to make staff seem more approachable, reductions in the number of signs, the elimination of jargon, writing customer communications in first-person narrative, being more accepting of the sound of exuberant children, and more, with new ideas surfacing regularly.
The Calgary Public Library will monitor its brand to ensure that it will continue to be seen as a vital and valued part of the community.