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Ensuring a Smooth Rebranding Effort

by on December 9, 2015

You may have heard about the Seattle Public Library’s (SPL) recent rebranding effort. To inform the process, the library sought public opinion via a survey to which more than 14,000 residents responded. Few of those who took the survey supported the rebranding, and the others were not only opposed, but chose some colorful words and phrases to voice their opposition. In addition, City Librarian Marcellus Turner and SPL Director of Marketing Stephen Hasley received over 400 emails on the subject [1]. Most of the emails were negative in tone, and voiced concern over the large amount of money being spent on what seemed (to respondents) an unnecessary initiative. Seattle Public Library had great intentions, in the words of Turner, they were seeking “…an initiative that speaks to the changing work and image of the library[2],” but somewhere the initiative seems to have gone off the rails, a bit.

Rebranding is an important tool for any business, including libraries. An organization’s brand is its public face and you want to make sure it is looking vibrant! Is your library undertaking a rebranding campaign? Here are some considerations which may help ensure a smooth rebranding effort:

  • Encourage feedback from everyone with a vested interest in your library before hiring a firm or undertaking any major moves. Staff, patrons, the library board, local schools, community centers – any group that would benefit from the re-branding should be consulted and included. This can be done via social media, meetings at the library, surveys, or other outreach methods, and should be publicized in any language that has a presence in your community.
  • Examine your library’s mission and vision statements to ensure that during each step of the process you are staying true to those.
  • Consider finances. How much or how little are you willing to spend to make this happen?
  • Look at other library rebranding efforts. What worked, what didn’t? Talk to librarians who have been through the process.
  • Is there a staff member or a group of staff members that could act as an advisory committee for the branding effort? This will improve staff buy-in and ensure that staff members are being heard.
  • Ensure that once the library embarks on the initiative, you continue to accept input from key groups and that you make the initiative as transparent as possible to avoid seeming secretive or unengaged. Have regular meetings and invite the public. Share progress via social media. Keep your community updated and involved.
  • Work with the press (including local bloggers) to ensure the message about the rebranding initiative is presented as clearly as possible.
  • Realize that you will not be able to think of everything ahead of time to create a perfect process, but be open to adaptation throughout.


  1. http://seattlereviewofbooks.com/notes/2015/10/21/public-response-to-spl-survey-sharply-against-city-librarian-marcellus-turners-rebranding-plan/
  2. http://www.spl.org/about-the-library/2015-proposed-rebrand/message-from-the-city-librarian-regarding-the-proposed-rebranding