February 17, 2018

Tina Thomas and Alison Circle | Movers & Shakers 2011 – Marketers

Library Journal March 15, 2011: Tina Thomas, Mover & Shaker
Library Journal March 15, 2011: Alison Circle, Mover & Shaker

Brand Leader

Alison Circle and Tina Thomas are both seasoned marketing professionals who have brought their expertise to public libraries. They didn’t come a moment too soon.

“We are long past the time when libraries need professional marketing,” believes Circle. “Marketing can help libraries drive real results: increased use, community presence, fundraising, you name it.” Circle handled clients like Target and American Express, while Thomas spent more than a decade at Nortel.

The ultimate message libraries need to convey is meaning for users. “I believe [if libraries] simplify the message, people can hear it over the din of all the noise that is out there,” says Circle. There’s no need to try to make everyone understand everything a library does.

That’s not to say details aren’t important. Circle and her team, with the help of a traffic manager application favored by advertising agencies, manage 400 projects a year at Ohio’s Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), LJ‘s 2010 Library of the Year.

Using demographic research tools, Circle identified CML users (young minds, virtual users, power users) and determined how their needs would be met via a promote/serve/maintain matrix (see “The House Brand,” LJ 6/15/09, p. 32).

Circle’s efforts have rebranded CML in a major and positive way. The end result? CML users overwhelmingly approved (126 out of 128 wards) a higher operating levy to make up for less state aid.

Circle regularly shares her marketing expertise via her Bubble Room blog, at LibraryJournal.com. There she has drawn upon her own successful efforts to “market a library levy.” Her Library Branding 101 entry spurred tons of requests for her marketing plan.

Thomas was brought into Edmonton Public Library (EPL) two years ago on a “wave of change,” tasked with rebranding EPL. The campaign addressed a pervasive issue: “We have a compelling product; why aren’t people using it?” Its purpose? To increase EPL’s recognition, create a unifying identity, and develop a distinct “market position” that “reflects who we are and what we value.”

The vibrant rebranding was launched with user participation, and fun, in mind: picture a mass of patrons playing a game of Simon Says via an MP3 file loaded to their iPods.

Was EPL’s campaign successful? Apparently the library community thinks so; it was among the winners of the 2010 John Cotton Dana Awards. Thomas thinks so, too.

Now every EPL branch looks at and applies branding the same way, making it easier for users to understand the scope of EPL’s services. According to focus groups, EPL’s new logo evokes feelings of curiosity, happiness, and innovation. But perhaps EPL’s success can best be measured by its eloquent new mission statement: “We Share.”


Tina Thomas, Edmonton Public LIbrary, AB
Alison Circle, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH

Alison Circle

CURRENT POSITION Marketing, Communications and Brand Management
DEGREE MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978

FOLLOW @alisoncircle; blog.libraryjournal.com/bubbleroom

Tina Thomas

CURRENT POSITION Director of Marketing, Communications & Fund Development Division
DEGREE Executive MBA, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, 2003

POWERHOUSE Previously Leader of Marketing and Development, Business Solutions at Nortel

FOLLOW @epldotca