Friday, September 21, 2007

Libraries 2.0

Transformation starts with language. That was why Lovemarks had to be Lovemarks, not Brands More or Brands Plus. Come up with a big idea and bring it to life with a name that is provocative, bold and risky. The London borough of Tower Hamlets got it back in the late 1990s. They’d done a large scale survey and found that fewer than 3 in 10 residents used their local libraries, and worse, that most of them didn’t even like the idea of a library. They thought libraries were fusty, old fashioned and not for them.

From this bracing reality check the borough came back strong. Not only are they now in the midst of transforming their library buildings, they are reinventing their funding model to include corporate partners and more conventional public sources. Now here’s the language part - they have renamed libraries as Idea Stores.

An Idea Store is like a contemporary bookstore mashed with an Internet cafĂ©, art gallery, community center, music store and video rental place. There are now eight of them in communities and shopping centers throughout the Tower Hamlets. Great places to meet, hang out, get informed and be entertained. Strong branding, stylish furniture, wider aisles, access to lots of useful services and books, of course, as well as CDs, DVDs, free Internet, etc. The Idea Store concept thrives in a sisomo world and screens are integrated into every part of the building. Many stores or shops could do well by having a close look at this model. Human beings are messy animals. Anything that goes in straight lines tends to run into barriers. We like to mix and match, cut and paste, and mash different ideas together to create new experiences. In the Ideas Stores a whole heap of “bests” have been drawn together brilliantly.

One disappointment. The Idea Store website is a let-down. Not a hint of sisomo sizzle. The Ideas Store of the future does not need an institutional-style website modeled on the past. Trust me.