Interview with Seattle Public Library City Librarian, Marcellus Turner

On Wednesday, October 21, I conducted an email interview with Marcellus Turner (interlocuted by SPL Communications Director Andra Addison), and I asked him three questions about the rebranding effort.

Who first proposed rebranding SPL? Why did you come out so strongly in favor of rebranding rather than some other means of obtaining your ends?

I know that once I arrived at The Seattle Public Library, I recognized some areas that needed review, our look and brand being one of them. Libraries around the country are and have been rebranding and refreshing their look and work in relation to the changes that are occurring in our industry and we (SPL) would be remiss if we, too, didn’t look at what is happening with our usage and the impact that these changes are causing.

Rebranding is one element of a comprehensive effort that helps us better serve our vastly diverse city. We also are focused on providing a robust collection and a high level of customer service with our knowledgeable and helpful staff. We have five service priorities guiding us: Youth and Family Learning, Community Engagement, Seattle Culture and History, Technology and Access and Re-imagined Spaces. Collectively, this work helps us reach our goals – providing excellent Library service for the people of Seattle.

How does the proposed new name, logo, and brand statement convince library non-users to become library users? Why not just change programs and services and where and how they are advertised?

Glad to have this question, because in fact, we’ve undertaken many innovative programs and partnerships over the last few years. We are hosting more workshops and events off-site, we’ve carried our materials (books and technology) out into the community through our Books on Bikes and Pop Up Library programs, we’ve revamped our Summer Learning Program and we’ve collaborated with community partners to provide important services to our public, such as Tax Help and Health Care Enrollment. We are also re-imagining our physical libraries to reflect the needs of each community.

This new work allows us to present ourselves differently to a segment of our population that may not be aware of the new resources and assistance we offer. While our traditional role has always been access to information (and mainly through books), technology and innovative programs have broadened access in new ways. The proposed logo, name change and brand statement capture this new direction and reflect our commitment to serve the next generation of users.

Do you think you will have the confidence of the SPL Board of Trustees, patrons and benefactors that might enable you to lead the public as suggested in this comment in a letter from Hornall Anderson Director of Strategy Nory Emori to you: "The public is not able to envision the future. They must be led.”

My job is to show our city all that The Seattle Public Library is and can be. And to that end, we will continue to evaluate and improve our services and seek all opportunities to communicate our value to the public.