Presentation offers new library name option
05/10/2016 12:48PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
When branding expert Carl Francis first came on board three months ago as a consultant to help develop a new name and identity for the library that resides on State Street in Kennett Square, he likened the warring factions he heard to that of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
On one side were those who held steadfast to leaving well enough alone; the name “The Bayard Taylor Memorial Library” made a strong reference to the history of Kennett Square by naming the library after one of its most famous citizens. Born in 1825 in Kennett Square, Taylor was a poet, novelist, literary critic, translator, travel author and diplomat.
The other camp argued that the existing name of the library was too antiquated – in fact, it was given in 1896 – and did not mesh with the modern-day bells and whistles so crucial to running a contemporary library. The name, they said, needed to be short, clean and easy, and identify with a place, not a forefather whose legacy has, for the most part, been lost to history. They pushed for “Kennett Public Library.” It is a more public-friendly name, they said.
Over the last year, the verbal tussle has, at times, resembled two heads stuck deep in the sand, unwilling to entertain any ideas but their own – with a lot of peacemakers caught in the middle.
Soon after entering the fray, Francis saw the validity of both arguments, but recommended that the name be public- and social media-friendly name that integrates a sense of place, as well as history.
On May 3, before 50 local residents at the Kennett Township Building, he unveiled an inclusive compromise -- culled from 36 possible options -- that just may be satisfactory to both sides: Kennett Library at the Bayard Taylor Commons.
He also suggested a slogan: Begin Your Journey Here.
"What do we know?" Francis asked. "We know that the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library name is two centuries old. New people get confused and don't come, ever. If you aren't clear, and if you are not understandable about who you are, what you are and what you offer and where you're located, people will not come, ever. The research is crystal clear."
During the course of his 75-minute power point presentation, Francis, the CEO and chief strategist for Envisian Strategic in Malvern, said that over the course of his career, he has worked to strategize branding and identity changes for over 350 companies and organizations, including the Easttown Library in Berwyn.
The initial problem, Francis said, was one of myopia, in that the argument only presented two options.
“I was hearing a lot of things that were really distressed me,” Francis said. “I asked myself, 'What is really going on here? What are the issues?' It's not just about the name. There's more to it than this. There's a lot of emotional connection and different feelings, and everyone's ideas are relevant and unique, but what do you do when you have one hundred opinions?
“What I found was that both sides are right, and I looked at it some more and said that both sides are also wrong at the same time. They're wrong in that they think they just have two choices. There are so many more choices.”
The pathway to selecting a name that a majority will agree on begins with attempting to achieve three outcomes: the name needs to be inclusive, effective and fresh – an idea that appeals to those inside the library's circle and yet a name that the library's community can also relate to.
Throughout his presentation, Francis stressed the importance of incorporating the Taylor name as part of the library's brand. Those who are in a rush to drop the library's reference to Taylor in its name committed a big mistake, he said, because it wiped out a connection to an area that is steeped in history, one that connected Taylor's name as a symbol of that history.
"He has been forgotten," Francis said. "He's disappeared, and if we want to bring him back, we need to think like Disney and be fresh and make him appealing and relevant to a whole new generation, because kids today don't care about old, bearded men. They care about super heroes. They want it exciting."
Attaching "Kennett" to the library's name not only creates a sense of place, Francis said, it is in keeping with the names of the vast majority of the 500 libraries Francis researched around the country. For every library that is named for a historical figure or a donor, ten libraries are named for the community -- or communities -- they serve. In Chester County alone, 16 library names are location-based, while only two -- the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library and the Henrietta Hankin Library in Chester Springs.
Incorporating the Taylor name in the official library name gives Bayard Taylor a job to do, Francis said. He recommended that the library weave his story into the business of the library, much the way the story of Pierre S. DuPont is integrated at Longwood Gardens. He suggested that erecting a statue of Taylor on the library grounds -- not as an older man but as a boy -- would appeal to youngsters.
In order for a library to survive, Francis said, it needs to reach out to the entire community through social media, events and its website.
"We need to make the library not just serious but fun, appealing, attractive, easy to understand, that connects people to where they are," he said. "We need to combine yesterday, today and tomorrow and we need to welcome all people. We can't sit still."
As negotiations continue to choose a new name for the library, Francis called for compromise from both sides.
“Don't expect total agreement,” he said. “Agreement takes time. People agree at different rates. Some people are going to feel that they're never going to borrow a book from this library again. I unuderstand that, but when the new library is built, and it's a nice spring or summer or fall day and the whole town has gathered out front to cut the ribbon, and there's a big celebration and a band is playing, and everyone is so proud of being at this fabulous new library. Where will you be?
“At home, by yourself, being right?”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com.