How to Create a Magnetic Library, Part 2
The Magnetic Library: Crafting the Narrative
Storytelling has always played a crucial role in the human experience. Storytelling has shaped communication, history, memory, and culture. Stories connect us to one another and help us find common ground. Telling the story of a library, one can cite gate counts, program attendance, and circulation stats or demonstrate how a library increases commerce on Main Street. One can cite figures supporting most arguments regarding the library’s place in society. But connecting personally through story will get the point across more effectively and memorably. Part of being a magnetic library requires telling the story of how the library is integral to daily life and fulfills a need that nothing else in the community does.
In Accidental Branding, marketing consultant and New York University instructor David Vinjamuri discusses several well-known product lines and how their founders, in being true to their story and values, stumbled upon wildly successful businesses. In the parting words of his book, he writes, “Every brand begins with a story and ends with a promise. . . . It’s important to remember to tell the story and honor that promise.”
Customers and potential customers already have a perception of the library. Their perception is their reality. A library may need to update, add to, and in some cases completely overhaul that perception to become magnetic. Show customers how the library is serving, supporting, and empowering them in their daily lives. And remember: it’s personal.
But to be magnetic, the library must translate its story into the user experience: the products, services, and building itself. As library designers, we typically begin our work with a library by establishing a vision for the project. What is the main objective? What does success look like? The result becomes the project’s narrative and serves as a starting point for design. Vision is just as important to consider when the library doesn’t currently have a building project. Beyond merely knowing the narrative, we must honor the promise. Honoring the promise can mean many things. In the context of being magnetic, it means providing an experience that matches the narrative.
To illustrate the point, consider a library that strives to improve the cultural resources of its community. One way to bring the narrative of “we are the community’s cultural destination” into the library would be to pair programming with a changeable gallery space. Perhaps the meeting room should be flexible enough to accommodate musical concerts and large arts presentations as well as more intimate gatherings, such as poetry readings. The point is that the story matches what customers will see and experience when they enter the building. The message is consistent.
Another example could be a community that needs free destinations for families with children. The library is a logical choice, but would a space that looks like it is an adult library with child-sized items fit the narrative of library as the go-to children’s place? Wouldn’t a space with whimsy, color, child-sized fixtures, child-sized book bins to flip through, a child-only entry, an activities area, and a way to reinforce pride in accomplishment better honor that promise?
Find the library’s stories (there will be more than one) and tell them through the building and spaces provided. Craft the narrative and honor the promise.
Next post on the magnetic library is about Making it Personal.