March 1, 2017
San Mateo County Libraries’ strategic planning process revealed two key action points. One: they needed to embark on a fresh rebranding effort in order to better tell their story of impact and reflect their libraries going forward. Two: they wanted to communicate that their many community library locations are part of a larger family that shares a single, unified vision.
By collaborating with Pivot Design and LibraryAware, San Mateo County Libraries was able to do both. This partnership made it easy for their staff to quickly create programming flyers and advertise other services in three different languages, while maintaining consistency in their brand and voice across the board.
In developing a new five-year strategic plan, San Mateo County Libraries dedicated considerable efforts to obtaining information from a broad cross-section of their community. From this feedback, the library discovered that many library users did not realize that their individual library was part of a bigger system. Maria Chiochios, management fellow for San Mateo County Libraries, expressed the problem faced by many large library systems. “We needed to better tell our story of impact across the County. We’re a large system with twelve libraries and a bookmobile serving an economically, racially, and geographically diverse population area.” With the previous brand having been around for at least a decade, San Mateo County Libraries recognized the necessity of rebranding to unify their family of libraries under one vision. Maria added, “Any changes we made to the brand had to echo the needs and values of our community, as well as reflect where the library is today and where we hope to go in the future.”
To fully capture this, they updated their name to San Mateo County Libraries to make is clear that each of their libraries is part of a larger family offering a world of opportunities, all accessible through a single card. Their corresponding tagline, Open for Exploration™, extends this spirit by conveying the essence of their mission, vision, and values. The new logo incorporated a simple and imaginative “Burst of Knowledge” symbol representing the spread of information, their family of libraries, and the radiating excitement that comes from experiencing something new. It also alluded to a central hub where shared ideas converge to ignite growth through transformative experiences.
The issue San Mateo County Libraries now faced was how to present the new brand in promotional materials. They needed to communicate the overall brand, while still acknowledging the unique communities each library served. A clear system had to be in place to designate which library was having a program, or if several libraries were sharing a programming series. Templates needed to be easy to use for library staff and adaptable for a variety of circumstances, but also have strict version control so that new templates and any template updates got out to all staff at the same time.
San Mateo County Libraries looked for two solutions that could work together: hiring Pivot Design to create their new branding and using LibraryAware as a universal tool that all locations could use to carry the new branding through consistently. The results are amazing! San Mateo County Libraries flyers have an engaging, playful look that efficiently communicates the brand while maintaining a unified voice.
By working with the LibraryAware team, San Mateo County Libraries rolled out an initial set of templates that their librarians could use, then made changes based on suggestions from staff. For both the designers and the staff, LibraryAware’s central portal was easily accessible and had a clear design and use benefit: new and updated templates appear for everyone at the same time—and any old templates are removed.
Kseniya Makarova, designer at Pivot Design, said the entire design team is very happy about the visuals. “When Pivot created the designs, we didn’t know we would be working 100% in LibraryAware and we didn’t want to compromise. LibraryAware has allowed the flyer system to carry the brand forward.”
With LibraryAware, San Mateo County Libraries achieved their goals of consistent branding and a tool that is easy for staff to use. Maria has received lots of positive feedback. “Our staff is appreciative of the ability to quickly produce flyers and repurpose content that is automatically in compliance with our brand.”
“With a lot of new staff coming on board, the in-house training piece is our big next step,” Maria said when asked what was next for San Mateo County Libraries. “It’s a conceptual idea right now and we’re gathering feedback from our librarians on what topics to cover in these training materials. We’re also exploring adding new templates and formats that we feel our brand will work well in.”
The impact to San Mateo County Libraries and their customers has been clear. “LibraryAware has really helped us to share our story with everyone who steps into our spaces and enjoys our programs and services,” said Maria. “And the LibraryAware team has been an integral part of the process to make that happen.”
San Mateo County Libraries is a system of twelve libraries in California, comprising the cities of Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, San Carlos, Woodside, and the unincorporated areas of the county..