There has been fierce debate across the globe about the future of libraries in recent months. Fox News recently announced libraries are a waste of money and should be closed and the Chicago Public Library has come out fighting against this claim. There is a long trail of online articles on this issue so the CAN Outreach Blog decided to interview the design agency responsible for rebranding the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW) to hear their thoughts on the public’s perception of libraries.
Cat Burgess, Frost Design
Vince Frost and Cat Burgess, of Frost Design, believe people are consuming information in new ways and libraries can be part of that. While libraries are in the knowledge business, they offer an experience that search engines cannot. They believe Google cannot replace the physical form. Librarians are enthusiastic and passionate about their ability to facilitate research. When Frost Design was given the brief of redesigning the State Library of NSW’s identity, the first question they asked themselves was – ‘Do they need a rebrand?’.
Vince Frost, Frost Design
Environmetrics were commissioned to carry out qualitative and quantitative research with focus groups of existing and potential users. The psychographic tests came up with two main profiles – academics and researchers who are looking for information and don’t care where it comes from. The library’s branding does not influence this demographic. The other group are culturally motivated, seek out interpretive information like exhibitions and public programs, and so are heavily influenced by the brand. They would like to visit the library but were intimidated and put off by a perception that the library is only a destination for academic pursuits. Once they were actively engaged they found the library welcoming. So the rebrand needed to focus on this second group.
Frost Design’s biggest challenge was not to undermine the strength of the brand while giving it an open, accessible and contemporary feel. Mr Frost came up with the concept of ‘a sense of surprise’ which was conveyed through the logo. Mr Frost believes online does not have the same respect as the onsite experience and so the goal was to encourage discovery in the library.
Links of interest
‘Which Future for Libraries?’, Metafuture.org
‘The Future of Libraries’, ABC Radio National, 30 June 2010