Brand Experience Brief: San Diego Public Library
Welcome to my newest Brand Experience Brief — these brief videos audit and analyze the brand experience at a new or interesting restaurant or retail concept.
Today I’m deviating from my regular practice of covering a brand experience to give you a look at the new San Diego Public Library. The Library which just opened two weeks ago is the result of a 30-year, $185 million project designed to produce a community hub and a new cultural destination. That actually sounds like what a lot of brands aspire to be, so there is a lot for businesspeople to learn from the experience there. Check it out!
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Today I’m deviating from my regular practice of covering a new or interesting retail store or restaurant and I’m giving you a look at the new San Diego Public Library. The Library which just opened two weeks ago is the result of a 30-year, $185 million project designed to produce a community hub and a new cultural destination. That actually sounds like what a lot of brands aspire to be, so there is a lot for businesspeople to learn from the experience there.
The new library succeeds in providing a much improved visitor experience – in the place of an old, somewhat run-down facility whose location on Broadway seemed to attract as many homeless people as it did library patrons, is a modern, architecturally beautiful structure in the heart of the newly gentrified East Village — the poetry on the entry staircase makes it clear this is a very different library.
The lobby is impressive, with a concrete archway, exposed ceilings and fixtures, stone, wood and metal surfaces, and contemporary lighting – all of this gives you the feeling of being in a new museum, flagship retail store, and academic center all rolled into one, which is what this new facility seems to suggest that libraries have become.
The first few floors are filled with work stations for people to use the library’s computers or to plug in their own, comfy sitting areas to hang out and read in, and study rooms for groups of people. Upper floors feature an art gallery of work by local artists and a reading room with an inspiring large window view of the San Diego Bay. And there are displays like the ones you’d expect at a Barnes & Noble for adults and kids alike and there’s a gift store too.
The library also has done a good job of appealing to different segments of users. The area for children is filled with fun furniture, walls painted with Dr. Seuss artwork, and lots of computers. There’s a teen space outfitted with bean bags, chalkboard surfaces for inspirational quotes, and even a surf board built into the info table. And there’s an outdoor courtyard and cafe
There are many details that I didn’t have a chance to check out like a “stairway to somewhere’ which is a set of inaccessible steps that function as a provocative art piece, so you get the idea that this library is presenting a more relevant, contemporary, and enriching library experience.
But there are definitely some missed opportunities. For one, to tap into newer methods of learning and engagement, there should have been more interactive displays that incorporated technology and invited visitor participation instead ones like this old school tribute to suffrage that was roped off.
Community information was limited to a bulletin board like area tucked away in a corner, whereas I would have expected a place aspiring to be a “community hub” would have had displays, booths, and areas dedicated to community issues and groups as the center point of the experience.
The signage was sparse and uninspired, which made it easy to overlook certain highlights of the library and also made the experience more generic than it should have been.
And finally the designers overlooked some details that would have enhanced the visitor experience. For example, the stacks of shelves were well signed on one side, but not the other. And the self check out stations are so minimalist, they don’t account for the piles of books and bags or purses that people would need a place to set.
Overall the new San Diego Public Library is impressive and is on its way achieving its vision but it still has a way to go before it arrives.