First and most importantly is that we start with a quality product. If we are to build a strong library brand then it is important that the product (the library) and our services are of the highest quality. We must also recognize that this high quality product is not enough to give libraries a brand advantage over the other organizations that may perform some of the same functions in the community such as a corporate bookstore. In fact, the high quality of products and services is simply a prerequisite to having something worth branding.
If we look at a competitor’s brand such as Borders, we notice that they do have a high quality product behind their brand. The Borders product is not books, instead the company recognizes that their customers have home and work as two integral spaces to their lives. With this recognition they are striving to create a third space for their customers away from work and home, this is their product and not books. The space is well-lit, well-organized, calming colors, easily understood rules, comfortable to sit in and rest with a good book and a cup of coffee. I’m not sure that libraries can compete in the market of creating third spaces but we don’t have to. Our role is slightly different than Borders.
I think that Kenneth Dowlin presents the formation of the product that libraries have to offer in his article “The Centrality of Communities to the Future of Major Public Libraries.” In it, states;
“The key to the future of a democratic society rests with the ability of its citizens to recreate a sense of community with common social purposes. This holds true for neighborhoods and cities as well as communities that go beyond geographic boundaries, such as those formed on the Internet. A library that meets community needs and expectations will succeed.” (Dowlin)
So then, the library’s product is the service that it provides to the community, not the contents of the library, but its function within the community. If this is true then it is important that libraries strive to become more community centered, if they are not already, as they are beginning to to form their brand image.
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