February 17, 2018

1,000 Words | Insights and Outcomes

We’re all familiar with the old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words. But when it comes to communication with our patrons, whether existing or potential, many in libraryland are more comfortable crafting the 1,000 words than the graphics to sit alongside—or replace—them.

Enter Ad/Lib, a website by Andrew Colgoni, Services Librarian at H.G. Thode Library of Science & Engineering, McMaster University. Colgoni had the brainstorm while visiting a hospital patient according to his blog, and created the site in June. (Ad/Lib is also on Twitter as @adlib_info and Facebook as www.facebook.com/adlib.info.)

There, the library community can share the output of its visual design efforts, including marketing and advertising campaigns, logos and branding/rebranding, visual identity, signage and wayfinding, and website design. Librarians are also encouraged to share examples they saw but didn’t create. And, of course, librarians can also visit to seek inspiration for new such efforts. Colgoni tells LJ, “It’s still a little website, only just finding its feet in terms of an audience, and I’m always on the lookout for new contributions: from small in-house projects, to large, externally-developed rebranding… Many modern re-brands are reinvisioning what library branding can be, and focusing on other aspects [than books]: community, technology, etc.”

GET GRAPHIC: Ad/lib's clean look practices what it preaches

GET GRAPHIC: Ad/lib’s clean look practices what it preaches

The examples shared span multiple types of libraries as well as aesthetic styles, and users can sort by library type as well as by format (print, online, video) though concepts from one may be well adaptable to another. They also range from easy to execute to more ambitious—or expensive. Recent posts include “Loovertising” bathroom posters at the University of Lincoln (simple typography on colorful backgrounds); librarians costumed and photographed as American Girl dolls at the Darien Library, CT; and odd animal facts paired with details about the collection on coasters from Saskatoon Library’s rebranding efforts.

What all these have in common is putting a fresh face on the library. Whether they’re playful, edgy, or clean and high tech, they reflect the kind of customer focus that represents the best of the sometimes-overstated advice for libraries to learn from business—even when, as in McMaster’s Respect campaign, they’re using these user personas and modern, energized graphics to deliver as timeless a message as “please don’t litter in the library.”

Measuring impact

The submission form itself has outcomes embedded in it, asking “did [the project] achieve its goals? Tell us a story.” Though not every poster responds to these questions, and some of those that do are often pretty anecdotal. “I wasn’t there to attend the program, but I hear it was a smashing success!”, from Amanda Goodman, who created the American Girl lookalikes for Darien, is a typical example. Some do cite outputs, such as “we were able to giveaway about two thirds of the withdrawn books” at a weeded titles giveaway at Roosevelt University.

While it is of course difficult to isolate the impact of a design project from the impact of the program the images are designed to promote, asking the question does serve to focus attention on the question of whether the images are effective at achieving larger library goals, as opposed to just artistically interesting. Some submitters were able to get quite granular in measuring the impact of marketing design in particular: for example, Champaign Public Library’s “Show Some Library Love” campaign led to a “30% increase in the number of gifts received and a 60% increase in dollars raised, compared to the previous year’s campaign.”

Brand building

Colgoni was one of three panelists on LJ’s Lead the Change’s first webcast: Library UX: Strategic Branding and Identity Development, along with Tina Thomas, Head of Marketing, Edmonton Public Library (Ontario, Canada); Padgett Mozingo, Marketing and Communications Manager, Richland Library (SC); and moderator, Principal of Influx Library User Experience, and LJ The User Experience columnist Aaron Schmidt. The webcast, the first in Lead the Change’s three part series called LIBRARY UX: Transforming Libraries, Engaging Communities, was to be held on October 14. The following two webcasts will be held on October 28 and November 20, and the full series will be available on demand for at least three months thereafter. For more information or to register, click here.

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This article was published in Library Journal's October 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.



  1. Correction needed – Edmonton is in Alberta, not Ontario, Canada.