We’re revisiting our mission, vision, and values. It feels like we are in the early stages of a transformation—physical, virtual, philosophical, etc. This is very apparent in the types of positions that we’re hiring: Research Environments Librarian, Visual Literacy Instructor, Web Developer, and so forth. The whole concept of what we do (or what we can do) as an organization is greatly expanding as new capabilities are being added.
This summer we are exploring a big concept that I’m calling our aspirational identity. What words and images do we use internally to articulate why our library exists? What moods, feelings, and energy do we want to project outward? How can we support and amplify that Virginia Tech brand? It’s really about reframing the identity of the library and making a statement: this is who we are now. I’m drawing inspiration from The Container Store and how they are telling their story and what they believe in.
I envision this process as a temporary construct (a popular phrase in the Dean’s suite these days) moving us through the growth years. This is the identity or skin that we’ll use while we are striving to formulate our new identity. A pre-identity identity? As we build new environments, bring together new partnerships, and engage our community in new ways — our library will look and behave very differently in three to five years. The aspirational identity is meant to convey that sentiment. It is a pronouncement: We’re changing. Here is what we are becoming. Here is how we can help with some of your evolving needs. It’s a communications strategy meant to unify and excite our employees while also informing campus of our expanding capacities and vision for the future.
Lauren and I assembled a list of words gathered from students, faculty, campus administrators, library employees and our strategic plan. We packaged them into 100 elements (document is here if you’re interested) and asked a group of twenty volunteers to each select ten that resonated with them. It’s not a voting system but a chance for us to see which words connect with people and to help us formulate the next steps.
We started with 100 terms and our participants also introduced eight additional words. When you put it all together we had 88 out of 108 possible words/phrases receive at least one response. I wasn’t sure what I expected but it just goes to show how varied opinions are about libraries. Forty-five of the words received just one response. This is a perfect representation of the long tail, which ironically was on this list and was selected by one person.
As we move forward I’ll post more about our progress and I’ll include the activities we use in case you want to dabble with them at your library. Here are the top twenty from our group.
Recommended reading: Three and a Tree