Support advocacy efforts.
It’s no secret that over the past twenty-five years, public libraries, alongside schools and other services, have felt the pinch of straitened municipal budgets. The classic response is to increase advocacy—train trustees to speak out, join Rotary, create return-on-investment calculators, etc.—all worthy and worthwhile enterprises and often effective. There will never be a time when relentless and aggressive advocacy won’t be necessary—but why work harder than necessary when branding reinforced with an evocative tagline may help smooth the road?
Unify distinct audiences with a cohesive message.
However, it’s not easy: libraries provide an array of products and services that defy simple categorization. Providing Internet access for job applicants is similar to but distinct from Internet access to thousands of juried research resources—and the targeted audiences are also very different. Manga for teens can be on the shelves, but so can health-related comics. Audio books teach Spanish or provide unabridged readings of Thackeray novels. Programs target babies to gran’babes and cover topics as diverse as financial planning, SAT prep, and vegetable gardening.
The beauty of libraries—the diversity of learning opportunities, the richness of their resources, and the skill and versatility of librarians—is that they do so many things so well and for so many distinct population groups. But…how can a library tagline project a cohesive promise in these circumstances?
Represent the past and look toward the future.
In one case, the answer was in the question. Alexandria Library serves one of the oldest and most beautiful cities of the American Mid-Atlantic. Fast growing and fast moving, increasingly diverse, and always looking ahead to customer needs while also housing valuable documents from our nation’s earliest history, the Library looked to put on a fresh face that reflected the dynamism of its service area.
In addition to a new brandmark, the Library sought to encapsulate its importance to the lives of Alexandria residents. Always responsive to the public, ready to answer questions and assist in solving problems, we helped the Library position itself as the place that wants to know “What’s on your mind?”. What could be simpler? Isn’t that what libraries are all about?
Reinforce your brand.
Ypsilanti District Library turned the question on its head. Challenged to ensure equivalent service to three communities with facility and demographic disparities, the Library conducted strategic planning. Primary research indicated the Library could progress by focusing on five key initiatives fueled by a dynamic, informal, and contemporary brandmark and the Library’s new tagline, “Ask Why”.
“Ask Why” is a play on the “Y” of Ypsilanti, transforming the universal question, “Why?” into a call to action to be curious, explore, study, aspire, discover, learn. Clever and memorable, the two words are a shorthand to explaining any and all dimensions of the Library’s contributions to its communities and provide a valuable dimension to its ongoing outreach and advocacy.
And so…when a library (or any other public institution for that matter) is trying to decide the wisdom of having a tagline, the answer inevitably rests with the question, “Why not?”