What’s in a Brand?
By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System
What do you think of when you see the brand name logos below?
For Apple, is it new ideas and useful tech? Do fond memories of a warm wholesome breakfast come to mind with Quaker Oats? Walmart wants you to think of low prices and convenience when you see its logo. The magic makers at Walt Disney World strive to make it your place for family fun. Now what do you think of when you see the buildings below?
Was it books? (Just in case you don’t recognize them, these are the four locations of the Darlington County Library System: Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill). When asked in a 2010 survey what comes to mind when you hear the word “library,” the majority of respondents, 75%, answered “books.” Judging from the response, the library “brand” is virtually synonymous with books! This brand identification is up from 69% in 2005. Is this a good thing for libraries? It all depends on how you look at it. In my case, I think it is not such a good thing for libraries.
Now before you get fired up and want to storm the doors of the Library looking to run me out of town, hear me out. If the Library’s brand becomes too closely identified with “books,” what do we run the risk of becoming in the mind of those we serve? There are those already saying “a library is just a warehouse for books” or “there is no need for a library full of books because of the Internet.” In a world of Kindles and free downloads, do we really need physical places to house books? The answer is yes, but libraries need to shift from being branded “the book place” to “the reading place.”
Traditionally, libraries, including Darlington County, looked at what we offered in terms of what we held on our shelves and checked out as our “core service.” Books (print and now electronic in various formats) were the first items loaned. They were in time, to the consternation of library purists at the time, joined by audio recordings in the form of vinyl albums, cassettes, CDs, and now downloadable tracks. Advances in technology allowed libraries to offer video recordings (documentaries were OK, but entertainment movies? Heresy!), such as 16mm films (the Darlington Branch has a 16mm film projection room), laser discs, VHS tapes, DVDs, and today streaming video. Let’s look at our traditional “core service” in a different way.
What if we take our core service, circulating items, and start thinking of the items in terms of reading, listening, and watching in all their forms? Last fiscal year, we circulated a little over 302,000 items of all types. Reading items, in all formats, amounted to 72% of our business. Watching items were 24% of our core service. Listening items were only 4% of our core service. Let’s carry this thinking about what libraries do a bit further.
Setting aside that libraries provide the written or spoken word or an image in a variety of formats so you can carry it in your favorite “container” away from the Library, there are other services the Library provides that fit very nicely with us being about, reading, listening, and watching.
Children’s programming at the Library is all about encouraging reading, listening, and watching. Our children’s librarians weave all three activities together for children in an entertaining and educational way.
• “Brain Boosters” is designed for youngsters to explore the Hartsville Branch and discover the many things to be found there.
• “Bunnynapped!” challenges children to search for the missing Easter Bunny by finding clues hidden in the Darlington Branch’s non-fiction area.
• The upcoming Summer Reading Program will focus on sports. There will be programs, activities, and reading challenges for prizes.
The Library provides programming for adults that incorporates reading, listening, and watching.
• The South Carolina New Writers’ workshops we host on the fourth Tuesday at the Darlington Branch are helping the aspiring writers who attend to hone their skills.
• The needlework groups at the branches are open to everyone interested in the hobby. They bring together all those who enjoy knitting, crocheting, etc. to share and learn.
• The branches host book clubs that encourage reading and listening to the thoughts of others on a particular book.
The Library has expanded its core service through our website at www.darlington-lib.org.
• The best in online research resources, such as DISCUS, EBSCOhost, Credo, Ancestry.com, and Darlington County statistics and maps, are available on our website 24/7.
• Take any of over 500 courses in 31 areas of study through Universal Class.
• Learn any of over 70 languages with Mango Languages.
All these programs engage those who participate in reading, listening, and watching in ways that nurture a love for learning.
In a very real way, everything the Library does for the community revolves around reading, listening, and watching. When you consider all our items in their various formats, the programs for all ages, and the many services we provide, the inescapable truth is the Darlington County Library System’s brand is not “books” because we are not just “the book place.” Our brand is “reading” because we are “the reading place!”