Lake Mac Libraries
CASE STUDY: Using the Shared Value model to identify and communicate social impact.
Lake Mac Libraries is a network of ten libraries in the Lake Macquarie region of New South Wales.
Each Lake Mac Library branch is unique in architecture, programming and catalogue, responding to the needs of the local community it serves. The relevance of local libraries in contemporary society is reflected in the expression of community identity and the value created for young people and families, students, research and education institutions, entrepreneurs and older people.
With their long-trusted role of connecting people and providing open access to knowledge, libraries have immense potential to be platforms for progression, transformation and expression. They are unique places for diverse people, groups and organisations to connect, learn, create and enjoy.
Research consistently indicates that most people believe libraries should be maintained and supported, even if they don’t use them. However, across the western world, governments are grappling with how to fund and evolve libraries for the benefit of community members – particularly in this, the digital age. Society is progressing faster than ever before, and to retain relevance among fast emerging trends, libraries must adapt.
The challenge is to identify the social needs of local communities in their socio-economic context and define, for each user group, how the unique assets, information and human resources of libraries can meet those needs.
A relevant library identity and experience – for each branch – can be created including a clear value proposition defining the outcomes libraries achieves. This creates a platform for co-design of programs with librarians and community members.
Observation, analysis and benchmarking
Ellis Jones began this project by strategically reviewing and analysing existing internal and external research. We invested time in observing the presentation, composition and activity of multiple Lake Mac branches; and consulting with library staff through facilitated learning and co-design activities. This work enabled us to effectively understand the main challenges, opportunities, assets, social impact and identity of the Lake Mac Libraries network.
Defining social need
The Shared Value model was used to identify future opportunities and social problems that intersect with Lake Mac Libraries competencies and challenges. In workshops, facilitators distilled seven key areas in which libraries are or could have a sustainable impact. These areas form the ‘pillars’ for co-design activities and reporting.
There is great potential for libraries to be places for collaboration, co-working, small business research and activity based learning beyond the traditional roles of providing books, information, entertainment and quiet.
Preliminary audience analysis and empathy mapping led to definition of working user personas. The library now has a platform for engaging and co-designing programs with these new user groups such as the online student, the busy parent and the knowledge worker.
Co-design for social innovation, collaborative space design, programming and small business development is planned for 2017.
The ultimate librarian
In a fun, facilitated exercise, librarians were engaged in workshops to define the behaviours, attitude, characteristics, skills and knowledge required to realise the user experience and meet the social needs of community members. Outcomes were also applied in defining a vision, purpose and values for Lake Mac Libraries (intersecting with but also distinct from that of council).
A group brand identity and value proposition was defined in an actionable strategy. It compromises a set of characteristics and associations that reflect Lake Mac’s current user experience and ambition. Through the brand experience, LakeMac Libraries can be a gateway and meeting place for users to achieve their goals.
The first activations of the brand identity include: creative stakeholder engagement and co-design activities, library interior design, evolution of programming, updates to promotional collateral and the launch of The Rover: the new mobile library designed to engage a diverse range of community members. The theme of ‘Expand your World’ has been vividly articulated by Ellis Jones’ design studio, working in collaboration with Australian illustrator, Tim Meakins.
Research, engagement and design thinking resulted in the creation of a defining concept, which unites all libraries in the network but has a different expression at each branch and in each community. It is a call to action for each Lake MacLibraries customer – inviting collaboration and guidance from librarians. Librarians are leading the engagement inputting in the framed creative process which is motivating, rewarding and re-orientating activity toward the greatest social purpose. The first brand activations have resulted in media coverage, increased patronage and innovation among library teams.