A Tale of Two Libraries

A highlight of our project work has been leading rebranding exercises for the public libraries in Richmond Hill and Guelph. Not only have the people at both libraries been delightful to work with, it’s an intriguing professional challenge to lead an exercise to define an organization’s brand as it sits on the edge of true transformation. The very definition of ‘library’ is evolving, and their brands need to lead the charge.

Entering into the two projects, which rolled out almost concurrently, we wondered if it would feel a little bit like one-for-the-price-of-two gig. After all, transformative or not, a library in one mid-sized Ontario town is the same as the library in another. Right? Once we learn about the core essence of the modern-day library, the same brand attributes and overall identity will apply to both clients. Right?

Wrong.

It turns out two libraries in two different communities amount to two different, distinctive brands. Sure, there was significant overlap in the brand attributes of each but the most resounding core purposes were different, and the brands need to reflect that. In Guelph, the community told us the library is – first and foremost – a community hub; an accommodating and vibrant connecting space for everyone. Somewhere for people to Explore, Connect and Thrive. (Hey, that’d make a great tagline.) In Richmond Hill meanwhile, the top line brand attribute is more about the library being a space for discovery, to learn and experience, whether in a quiet study space or energetic collaborative programming. It’s a place for anyone to Celebrate their Curiosity. (Hey…).

We learned this nuanced difference between the two libraries because we spoke with their customers and communities. The attributes of all brands rest in the minds of their owners: the customers, staff, volunteers and supporters. Any branding exercise worth its salt starts with a fulsome engagement with those stakeholders to get to the heart and soul of the brand – what makes it special.

When we figure that out, that’s the brand, and any creative work that starts from that firm footing has a strong chance at success.

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