A 21st Century Library rivals a Starbucks

I visited a local library recently. It had been just re-opened after a major renovation that took seemingly ages to complete much to the consternation of the residents who felt inconvenienced by this disruption of a tax payer funded public service. Well,  it must have taken ages alright, because I felt like Rip Van Winkle when I stepped inside. What greeted me was a library of the new millennium.  A brief description of my surroundings on this occasion will suffice to make my point. Wireless throughout, person after person, seated at tables or very comfortable overstuffed chairs,  were clicking away at their various laptops, happy as can be.  Then, looking like a command center at NASA, I saw the rows of monitors, all in use, provided for those who came empty handed. There was the obligatory Youth and Children’s section, very inviting indeed, but in addition,  a whole separate room was designated “The Teen Room” with a life-size cut out of Captain Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, guarding the entryway – and then I spied “The Lounge” which sported a refreshments counter – coffee anyone. The shelves were filled with audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, and yes, books.

This post is all about creating environment, this can be done in real spaces and in virtual spaces – think of a blog as a virtual space, for example. Environment, which is a cousin to climate can be thought of in this way: “constructed surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from the large-scale civic surroundings to the personal places.” (from Wikipedia)

Now with any endeavor, you want to strive to “construct” an environment appropriate to the activity, to encourage involvement. You want to generate the “I think I’ll hang out here awhile” feeling. Each application has its optimal set of environmental elements which need to be defined and applied . These are not just trappings, they are integral to the total experience of the moment, and upon their effectiveness often rests the viewer/listener/participant decision to stay or go.

Of the many consulting projects I have engaged in over the years, I sometimes have been involved in working with restaurant franchising enterprises from concept to prospectus, and this type of venture requires the “packaging”  (see previous relevant post re. “packaging” ) of a complete  “environment” which can be duplicated for each unit to be built. I always enlisted the assistance of a particular specialist in restaurant interior design who in my opinion was one of the best. Everything was tied into a theme. Everything worked to create a certain ambience that was unique to that venue; the totality of these environmental elements quite literally became the “signature” of that franchise. Even the acoustical properties of the space were taken into account. Turns out “building in” the sound of happy chatter – the more the better – has a positive impact on diners.

Back to the library. There are many lessons to be learned from my visit to the library. Go visit one, one that you are sure is “state of the art”; observe the library patrons around you,  and see for yourself. In the meantime I recommend a visit to the DaVinci Institute web site. The Institute is a non-profit futurist think tank based in Colorado. The web site features an excellent “discussion” of the future of libraries, delving into ten key trends that portend the library of the future – a number of the trends cited have  broader implications for communications in general as well.


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“Freedom Tower” vs. “1 World Trade Center”

What’s in a name? Just about everything. Last week the owners of ground zero decided the  name “Freedom Tower” which was to be used for the most prominent of the several  new buildings being constructed on the site of the terrorist destroyed twin towers just didn’t send the right message and have opted instead to use the name associated with the former north tower “1 World Trade Center”.

Symbolism abounds as ground zero resurrects itself. The building in question should be ready in 2013, and will rise to a height of exactly 1776 feet at the very top of its antenna.  It is designed to evoke the Statue of Liberty. It will become America’s  tallest building.

I have stood at ground zero. Only the most callous of hearts is not affected in its presence.

That being said, I want to focus in this post on more mundane yet still important matters. This name switch calls attention to  issues relating to “branding” and “brand identity” (watch for an up-coming post all about “branding” and the naming process). The developers have legitimate concerns that prospective tenants might see the “Freedom Tower” name as putting a bullseye on the building. The general populace finds the same name appealing in that it clearly makes a “don’t tread on me” statement.

Pragmatic considerations apparently are holding sway in naming this “tower”, which is, it should be recognized, one of several “towers” associated with the overall site development which also incorporates a memorial and museum, a performing arts center, as well as other elements. The meaningfulness of the overall re-development of the ground zero site to all Americans cannot be overstated. It is the sum of the total that I think matters most; for individual elements of the project, as with any naming decision, mulitple factors must be considered.

In fact, using the name of the destroyed tower has significance of its own. In any naming process, the heart of the matter is to  carefully screen all the name options (and there should always be options) against a set of specific criteria; a name that just has a certain “ring” to it, may literally sound good, but if the name doesn’t “work”  it should not be used. All too often, naming gets too little attention.

While on the subject of the importance of names, we must ensure the names of  those who perished as a result of the September 11th attacks are enshrined in our national memory. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is dedicated to this purpose. $300 million has been raised towards its fundraising goal of $350 million. Those who wish to contribute to the construction of the memorial can do so at the following site:



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