MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL | Michelle Corbet
For years, people have been asking the head of Memphis' public libraries: "With Google, do you really need a library?"
But Memphis' 18 libraries are not the shushing institutions of yesteryear, filed with dusty publications and old periodicals. Instead, they have evolved into community hubs that offer more than 6,000 integrative programs a year, ranging from job training to music and video production.
"We really focus on all forms of literacy — not just in the form of books, but also financial literacy and music literacy," said Keenon McCloy, director of Memphis Public Libraries.
With the emergence of the Internet and e-books, the City of Memphis is rebranding its public libraries.
"Google gives you lots of answers, but the library can give you the answer you are looking for," said Doug Carpenter, principal of Downtown advertising, design and public relations agency DCA.
Last fall, Little Bird Innovation responded to a research RFP from the Memphis Library Foundation. Little Bird's research would build the foundation for a communications plan by DCA to reinvigorate Memphis' public libraries.
Libraries are critical to citizens who do not have access to a computer or WiFi, those who need job-help training and parents who cannot afford after-school activities or summer programs, Carpenter said.
The resulting brand campaign, called Start Here, will continue to position the library as a resource, and that includes librarians.
New signage that resembles a computer search bar will hang above library information desks and librarians will wear "Start Here" branded lanyards.
In addition to overhauling the library's website, DCA created 18 separate Facebook pages so communities can keep up with branch-specific events and programming.
Next time a cultural controversy erupts on Twitter, don't be surprised if the Memphis Public Libraries enters the conversation with #StartHere and a link to political, cultural or historical resources.
"We want to raise the awareness that people can come in here without a biased position and discover what they think about issues," Carpenter said.
Next week, DCA will be placing RedBox-inspired kiosks as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign to raise awareness of September’s National Library Card Sign-Up month.
"When you come to the library, you may go for a book, to renew your driver's license or for your child, but you almost always discover another resource," Carpenter said. "It's full of accidental discoveries."