Rebranding a Library: how did it all go so right?

Ned Potter on the "very tricky business" of rebranding and how one Library got it right.

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3: User experience trumps anything to do with branding. As much as some people will welcome a rebrand and others will fear it, all of that will cease to matter if the new service is successful. Fiona told me:

We had a lot of worried people.  People who had used the library all their lives and they were worried that we would destroy the building and make it too modern.  This has changed since we reopened.  We have had a lot of comments from people who said they were expecting to hate it – but they love it.  People were especially worried about the café – but again they love it and they use it lots.

If you end up with a great service, then a new name can still open all the doors it’s supposed to, without closing all the old ones. A successful rebrand should result in retaining the old library users (they’ve come along even if they hate the name) and an influx of new ones (attracted by a new ethos or a more easily understandable purpose for the library).

4: There was great communication and flexibility throughout. While the main library closed for refurbishment, opening hours were extended at all the satellite branches. The library worked with the Council’s Marketing & Communications department throughout to keep the public informed. And the members were allowed to take out as many books as they wanted for the entire duration of the refurbishment – meaning the shelves were almost bare by the time the library closed (with the added bonus that of course none of those books had to be stored elsewhere). This created a lot of goodwill which helped diffuse cynicism or anger about the whole exercise.

5: The rebrand was about the users. The whole thing was done with the users in mind – trying to create a more flexible, useful, modern library, which resulted in needing to reband to communicate this, rather than the other way around. The word 'Explore' in the title is not just an empty buzz-word – the space is much more open in every way, encouraging users to make the most of it. There’s no desk at the front of the building, no exit gates, no alarms – just wide open doors that lead straight to the resources. The library trusts the users, and the users love the library.

Ned Potter is an Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of York. You can read the full case-study on York Explore in his book The Library Marketing Toolkit (Facet 2012) and find resources on marketing and branding at

Photo courtesy of PNASH via Flickr. 

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