BrandLibraries update for LIANZA 2013

Last week the BrandLibraries Working Party that I am part of presented an update to the LIANZA 2013 conference on the project.

The slides for our short presentation can be viewed below. The slides are pretty self-explanatory but if you have any questions do feel free to post them in the comments. The project is at an exciting time, with BRR Ltd currently in their Discovery phase, interviewing stakeholders and visiting libraries. Branding the libraries of an entire country, and taking into account all of the library sectors, is a pretty ambitious undertaking, and it will be interesting to see what BRR comes back to us with! One of the people I connected with at conference was Sarah Fry, from Nelson City Libraries. Sarah has a background in communication and journalism, and her comment  was that we should make sure we don’t send out too complicated a brand message. I think if it was left to librarians that is exactly what could happen – by engaging with BRR we stand a much better chance of getting it right!


You can also check out our January 2013 update to LIANZA Council on the LIANZA website.



I’m on the #brandlibraries working party – one of the LIANZA’s Strengthening the Profession projects. I couldn’t really not put my hand up for this project, seeing as I have been banging on about libraries and aspects of marketing for a while. However some stressful personal family circumstances made me doubt if I had the energy for this. Well I ended up applying, things have changed family wise and the project is now under way and I am part of the working party. Vye Perrone (Waikato University) is chairing the working party, and other team members are Sandy Green (Masterton Public) and Amanda-Jane McFadden (Tauranga Public).

I won’t be blogging about every aspect of the working party – that won’t be appropriate as the project is LIANZA’s and there are reporting requirements back to LIANZA Council. But at the moment I’m considering what branding is, and thinking about what it is we might exactly need to achieve.

The project aim is to “Create a strong, unified library “brand” aimed at decision makers, which spell out the economic and social value of libraries in New Zealand”

So let’s have a look at what some of my favourite library marketing gurus have to say on the subject.

In The Accidental Library Marketer, Kathy Dempsey (p. 125) says:

Branding is another important aspect to consider as you look at your overall marketing picture. That’s really about developing the “personality” of your product and service. How do you want people to see you? What characteristics should come to mind when people think of you?

In The Library Marketing Toolkit, Ned Potter (p. 37-38) writes:

Branding is the:

 process of creating a recognizable product or service – building an identity which people understand – and marketing it as distinct from potential competitors.

(For libraries these are bookshops, the internet and other institutions people can invest time in).

The brand … is the sum total of everyone’s perceptions about what you do. It is the way people feel about your library, the way people describe your library to others. Clearly branding as a marketing practise is an attempt to influence this as favourably as possible. But the brand is in the eye of the beholder – in the eyes of the users and non-users of your library – so you can never fully control it .. To put it a simpler way, a brand exists in the way people feel about something; branding is an attempt to make these feelings positive

He also writes – and these aspects are key (p. 39,)

Ultimately the aim of an organization’s branding and visual identity is not just to give a good impression, but to help people position that organization within their lifestyle. It helps people make a decision as to whether something is “for them” or not … Branding doesn’t just increase use of the library by attracting new customers, it also increases the amount of use by existing customers, and influences those decision makers who hold the purse strings for library finance

Libraries are already a strong brand – and to most people, that brand means books. A recent US study* indicated that this association was only getting stronger – in 2010 75% of American’s associated libraries with books, which was up from 69% in 2005.

In his post on The Physics of Your Library Brand, Steve Matthews points out:

There are few brands in the world bigger than LIBRARY. Library is generic – they are all the same, they are interchangeable, they all function the same, look and smell the same as far as the public perception is concerned. LIBRARY is one of the biggest brands ever developed. It took centuries to create the LIBRARY brand – BOOK. It will not be replaced easily or quickly – “the bigger a brand, the more difficult it is to reposition it”

However strong brands don’t always survive. Libraries have been fighting threats to our brand for almost as long as I have been in the profession (and that is a few years now!).

But as Steve Matthews asks:

How can the library re-invent itself and change its brand to survive in the 21st Century technology and information marketplace? How can we apply physics to library marketing in order to move the library’s position in the marketplace?

One of his recommendations is:

On a national level, library associations must conduct marketing campaigns that change the LIBRARY brand to something other than BOOK

So we do already have a brand, the question is probably are we wanting to reposition it?

And for this project – is it necessary to reposition the library brand in order to meet the primary outcome of the project which is “libraries are recognised as core to a healthy and prosperous New Zealand” ?  You could say it isn’t, but you could also argue that this is an ideal opportunity to attempt to do so!

Or should we focus more on a publicity/public relations campaign. And if that is the case what about the information about the “economic and social value libraries in New Zealand”? Presumably any campaign is going to need to have this information – so where will it come from? Are the advocacy pages on the LIANZA website developed well enough to draw upon?

We have an interesting challenge ahead! (see pg. 38)

Marketing and advocacy – or why you should get along to LIANZA’s course!

Heather Lamond, LIANZA’s president-elect, has recently blogged to promote the upcoming advocacy workshops that LIANZA is running in New Zealand. There has been slower uptake for these workshops and I thought I would pitch in and do some promotion.

One thing to be aware of is that advocacy and marketing are not the same thing. So if you have already attending one of the recent LIANZA marketing courses (co-presented by yours truly) you will be exposed to a different emphasis and pick up another skill set. As library marketing guru Kathy Dempsey says marketing is:

determining what people want, delivering it, evaluating consumer satisfaction, and then periodically updating the whole process.

While advocacy is:

getting people who have good opinions of your organization to speak to others on its behalf, to convince other people of its value

Dempsey’s definition does make it sounds like advocacy is part of what other people do for us, but as Heather points out:

we all, as individuals, need to have the skills, knowledge and strength to articulate our value and unique contribution (without having to wait or rely on someone else to do it).  This is not just about negotiating library budgets or funding for new buildings, but about being able to tell our story in a way that makes a difference to those outside our profession

This doesn’t necessarily come easy to everyone, but I believe it’s important to do our bit to develop these skills, so that we can be advocates for our libraries, our customers and our profession at every level. You can find details of the workshops in Heather’s blog post – be sure to attend if you can 🙂


Survivor: Revalidation Island

Update  16/10/2012 – LIANZA have developed a new and improved journal template which really does away with the need for point #3 – a great improvement! The rest of the advice is still valid I think 🙂  

Many of my colleagues have heard plenty of my thoughts and complaints about the complexity of the revalidation process for professional registration via LIANZA 😉 When my time came I just decided that rather than have it sitting around for months I was going to get onto it and get it sent off. I did this just before the recent conference, and was rather pleased to get my revalidation certificate in the mail yesterday!

There have been several forums offering advice about keeping and submitting your journal, so I thought I would just add mine to the mix. The whole process is a damn sight easier if you do record what you have done, and include a sentence or two reflecting on what you did. Brenda Chawner offers some good advice about that in this column. I had managed to record quite a few things I had done in a blog set up for that purpose so that probably saved me hours of stuffing around. And as my boss Jane Brooker reminded me, you can check out what you have done on your peformance reviews. This whole process of recording and recall is going to be different for all of us. I hear that LIANZA are working on some other sort of blog like (?) recording tool rather than the excel spreadsheet, hip hip hooray for that.

So apart from the obivious (make sure you keep notes about what you do) here are my tips:

1. Get in the cloud. Join up to a site where you can store your journal in the cloud and access it from work and home. I kept mine in Dropbox. This made life so much easier as I wasn’t having to bother about flash drives, emailing documents or the like. It meant I could work on it when I had a few minutes to spare wherever I was. Which leads me to ..

2. Find what works for you when you are putting your journal together. I made a decision (or maybe it was a plan!) to do a little and often. So I actually decided to work on one entry every night. As I got into the swing of things I would end up doing several entries a night. Horribly girly swot huh? Well it got it done.  Of course (so a lesson for me) if I had been using the original excel template to start with then I would haven’t had much to do at all really – but that just didn’t work for me. I think I had to go through the process once just to get familiar with it.

3. Keep a table that maps what you have done to what Bok. I set one up with the BOKs along the top, and then what I had done under each of the 3 years down the left  – then marked in the cell where the activity fell. This allowed me to tally things nice and quickly and to see where I was missing activities in a Bok. I did change my mind about which things went into which Bok to get it looking more even. This is what it looks like:

My summary table – you can click to enlarge this

Which leads me to ..

4. Next time I will try not to stress out about the BOKs too much. I find them rather complicated – I think we all do – and I have endless notes and scribblings on a printout of them to try and sort it.  Good news is that LIANZA is working on clarifying the Boks – hooray to that too.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff) – the Board are after your best entries – I think they are now saying no more than 10 a year. So if you have more than 10 be sure to cull some of them out. Having said that I didn’t bust a gut trying to recall and polish every last thing I have done. There may have even better examples I could have included, but I got to the number required and that was it.

6. Check out the completed journal examples at the bottom of the page here. In particular have a look at the way the reflections are written – I found this quite useful.

Ok so that’s it. Hopefully some of these tips will be useful for you!  I still have reservations about the whole process but am heartened by the fact I know that LIANZA are looking to make changes. And I’m especially heartened that I survived my first revalidation experience 🙂

Now what BOK can this blog post fit in 😉

Jenica Rogers – passionate librarian

Ah Jenica, where were you years ago when I needed you?

Jenica’s Roger’s keynote at the recent LIANZA conference was all about how to keep moving forward despite the odds stacked against you. Her talk was full of metaphors – climbing hills, moving through walls – accompanied by powerful imagery and sparse words on her powerpoint slides. There were times when I thought to myself that her keynote was sounding too much like something out of a self-help manual. How cynical of me. There were some real gems in what she said, some solid reminders of how to approach what you want to get done. Days later her talk is still resonating with me, and after finding it pretty much verbatim on her blog I suddenly feel the urge to print out some of the images she has there and put them around my desk.

So here are some of the things I noted from her talk:

• You are your own best weapon in the things you want to change
• Why are you fixing on an idea? What resonates for you? If you can figure out that then you have something to act on
• She talked about an actionable passion – a belief in something and a belief that it can be done. It is important to name your passion and be optimistic about it
• Important to challenge legacy processes
• You come back from conference and then you are just one person. What next?? Jenica used climbing hills as a metaphor for facing challenges. But you have to figure out which hill is worth climbing. Not all hills are worth climbing and some battles are not worth fighting. We have the power to choose what we work on.
• The secret is to approach success as you would any project. You have to plan for it, organize it, and manage it. She thinks any goal, every goal, should be project managed. You need to make a plan, draw yourself a map and then follow it. Having scripts helps to deal with unexpected.
• Build an ugly rocket to get you where you want to get to – you may not like everything you have to do to get where you want to be
• Success requires some tolerance for failure
• What’s the worst that can happen?
• We must not have fear driving us?
• Ask yourself why someone is blocking you? Can you find an ally? Find yourself a team. Sometimes finding someone to speak for us is our power.
• Build a world of professional peers – use the internet (my comment on this would be absolutely – find great people on Twitter and follow them!)
• You need to network – this is not your last job!
• Know yourself and set your priorities accordingly

Her best metaphor was left till last. It was all about farmers, and how whatever happens they never feel like they have had a good year. Extending this to librarians she said – we have been here a long time, and it’s never been a good year for libraries – get over it.


Some of this stuff I knew, some I wish I had heard years ago. I’m pleased I got to have the reminder about what’s important to help get the job done and not go crazy.

For those of us struggling …

… with what to post where when it comes to social media – check out Simone McCallum’s excellent post on that subject. Straighforward useful advice – brilliant.

… with completing their revalidation journals (this one is only relevant to my Kiwi colleauges!) – check out Sally Pewhairangi’s article that highlights how her Daily News posts can help. A big shout out for Sally for helping us overcome obstacles 🙂

(lack of) Library rebranding … the same old BS

Seth Godin’s recent comments on libraries and librarians has prompted a number of interesting responses. Bobbi Newman has done another great job of unpacking Seth’s ideas and providing really well-considered responses. One other one that resonated with me is PC Sweeney’s post saying that basically Seth has got it right:

 The problem is that the real root of this article, and the aspects these good folks are arguing against, are problems of perception. Of course, we all know that the library isn’t just a “warehouse of books” and we know some folks use our databases, and we all know that kids shouldn’t use Wikipedia. But unfortunately Seth’s statements are exactly what a HUGE percentage of the population believes. This is our fault. This is the brand that generations of librarians have been reinforcing for years. In fact, some of my favorite library marketing has been about the book brand of libraries. Seth is merely calling us out for not doing our jobs to ensure that we are adequately re-branding libraries.

Again, I couldn’t agree more. I tried to have a bash at this myself in my post about the demise of Library week. LIANZA responded to me (thank you!) but, again, what they are offering are materials to promote libraries. This is not quite what I was on about. I was on about a collective conversation that would seek answers to some fundamental questions such as those raised by marketers like Brian Meredith:

What business are we in?

What are we selling (or in our case what services are we providing)?

Who are we providing these to?

Why would anyone want them?

Once we have a handle on these things we are in a much better position  to think about 1) how we should market brand Library and 2) achieve our goals by identifying and/or creating needs and/or wants for our chosen target audiences and fulfilling  them cost effectively. 

One of the comments to PC Sweeney’s post was that “this BS is decades old”.


So can we get on with talking about what business we really are in and how we might do better at rebranding and broadening perceptions of what we are all about?

The demise of Library Week and the need for Brand Library

The recent news that LIANZA’s Library Week is no more is regrettable I think. Without the funding it previously had, LIANZA saw no choice but to cut Library Week and instead provide a pool of resources available for all libraries in New Zealand. I’m sure that may libraries will do great things with these – however I still think Library Week had a lot of undeveloped potential. And one potential it had was for the development and delivery of a strong consistent message of what libraries are all about now to the New Zealand market. This potential can still be realised – I hope there is motivation to do it!

I am talking about moving beyond ideas about “Ask a librarian” or promoting different images of librarians (and there is nothing wrong with that!) but getting to the guts of what we need to promote. Is it libraries as a place? Libraries as a gateway to electronic information (that the have-nots cannot afford on their own?) So what are the key images/messages we want to promote? I’m talking about big picture messages, that all types of libraries could embrace. I think there is enormous potential for us to have that collective conversation, make some decisions and get on and do it. Library week would have been a great vehicle to deliver those messages.

It seems libraries are inextricably entwined with the book. The recent OCLC report, Perceptions of Libraries 2010: context and community seems to indicate this is strengthening in the U.S. In 2005 69% of respondents associated libraries with books and this was up to 75% in 2010 (1). With ever-increasing publicity about ebooks where does that leave the library in the minds of our customers? We’ve all seen plenty of things written about the demise of the library – do we have a collective response to this?

I don’t think any of us think the Brand Library is wedded to the physical book, but we need to start strengthening our promotional messages about what customers needs we really are meeting – so we can effectively demonstrate our value to our communities. And I think our best bet is to do that collectively.

(1) p. 38

Library week and Lady Gaga

This week saw LIANZA launch the theme and website for Library Week 2010, “Ask me – You might be surprised! He Taonga Te Pātai”. This year the focus is on raising the profile of librarians:

The theme reflects librarians not just as people who issue books, shelve novels and tell you to “hush” when you have been too noisy but as trained information professionals who have a world of knowledge and experience at their fingertips.

The info about the launch includes an example of  a poster that will be part of the publicity material:

The sample poster … shows a librarian shelving books, as you might expect, but through the “rock music” imagery we can see that is not all there is to a librarian. Indeed, under the surface you don’t know what wealth of information lays within, just ask – you might be surprised!

I don’t know if other professions spend as much time as we do in angst-ridden endless discussions about  “identity” and ongoing attempts to break the stereotypes. These discussions amongst our profession are both trivial and essential. What we can’t afford to do is to let our heritage (for want of a better word) as a lowly-paid, undervalued, largely female dominated profession decide our fate. Whether we are twinset and pearl wearing traditionalists, tat and pierced wannabes or genuine hip young things what we need to be able to do is to become accomplished at how we can really deliver value in a world where there is a clear “information access paradox” – where most people can get by with what they find on a Google search, but there may come a time when that doesn’t cut the mustard.

Apparently there’s been a bit of a debate lately about the UofW Librarians Do Gaga video and whether or not it’s a good thing – I quite like Mal Booth’s response in his Putting yourself out there post:

Well to them I say “BAH, HUMBUG!” I don’t think it has a deep and meaningful message – who cares if the words aren’t completely in accord with what you believe to be the truth about academic libraries. Who knows anyway? The lyrics had to fit in with the bloody music. And I really don’t think they are trying to be cool at all. They look obviously daggy and a range of folk of all ages from the library were included.

Mal Booth also includes a short promo video featuring a MOMA staff member which I think is nicely done:

I await the LIANZA promo material with interest 😉