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Using Branding and Design Concepts to Elevate the Library on Campus
Meredith Solomon
Outreach Officer, Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard University

Stephanie Worrell
Branding Consultant

Robin Horst
Branding Consultant

Susan Zinader
Design Strategy Consultant
(Editor’s Note: This article is adapted by the authors from a paper they presented at MLA 2019.)

Your Library is a Brand: Market It

Countway Library is part of a large medical campus. To elevate our presence beyond that of a library known for its research, study, and resources, we engaged brand strategists to help change users’ perception. Our goal throughout was to build awareness by creating a more meaningful connection with our users. We also used strategic messaging to influence attitudes, share information, and promote classes and events.

Brand Architecture
We used a process called brand architecture to discover our most promotable strengths, identify how to best serve users, and redefine our brand positioning. We hoped to enhance our image as the place that connects everyone through learning, wellness, and enrichment.

Our Purpose
  • Gain a deeper understanding of who we are as a brand
  • Identify how our services do or do not meet the needs of users
  • Make access to resources more intuitive
  • Determine core strengths and opportunities for growth
Using brand-building tools, our process helped us look closely at who we are as a brand. This was a collaborative effort driven by our brand strategists and two multidiscipline teams comprised of Countway staffers. The process was not easy, but in the end, it was remarkably enlightening.

Our Process
1. Deconstruct the organizational structure to visualize service units as pillars
a. Provided clarity around how functions fit together
2. Reorganize and rename some units to align with user expectations
a. Made access and connection more intuitive
3. Field short (less than 3 minute) surveys to gain insight into users' experience
a. Catchy email subject lines gave us a higher response rate
b. These surveys validated our assumptions that users wanted more than they were getting

Understanding our brand and engaging in thoughtful discussions helped us articulate our brand positioning, a strategic statement that defines what a brand stands for, how it’s different from its competitors, and why users should care about it.

Our Positioning
As a team, we brainstormed ideas to create an emotive statement to be used internally to guide our communication and inform all strategic messaging. It defines what Countway stands for and how the library benefits users.

Countway Library is a wellspring of research, knowledge, and education. With accessible resources, it’s a multidiscipline community that supports everyone by bringing all people together through learning, wellness, and enrichment.
Strategic Communication: The Countway Cares Platform
Countway Cares is a reflection of our brand positioning and speaks to the philosophy that Countway cares about its community. This alliterative name is memorable. It organizes our classes to make navigating them easier. It says we are more than research and resources. Paired with a tag line, it gives users a quick grasp of what is being offered. Here’s how it’s used in our promotional materials:

Countway Cares about your Peace of Mind
To promote mental health awareness events

Countway Cares about Sharpening your Skills
To promote skill-building classes and workshops

Countway Cares about History of Medicine & Public Health
To promote historical lectures

Our Payoff
What did we gain from this process?
1. A clear understanding of our library’s strengths and opportunities for growth.
2. A marketing strategy that will influence attitudes, share information, create awareness, and promote community.
3. A strategic communication platform called Countway Cares.
4. An increase in engagement with user base through ongoing short online surveys.
5. Strategy on a Page (SOAP) gave our library leadership a one-pager that defined marketing goals.
What You Can Learn from This Process
1. Identify your library’s strengths and weaknesses.
2. Decode your mission statement into a user-friendly brand positioning description.
3. Organize your class/event offerings to be both more compelling and easily navigable.
4. Encourage users to view your library as a place of community and enrichment.

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