Boulder Public Library

Project Details

  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Positioning
  • Brand Messaging
  • Print & Packaging
  • Website Design
  • Web Development
  • Video Production

Repositioning Boulder Public Library for the modern era.

The Boulder Public Library (BPL) is one of the nation's top library systems. Their unique outlook on what it means to be a community resource has enabled them to push the boundaries of traditional library services. From partnering with local nonprofits to assist the homeless in learning marketable job skills to helping entrepreneurs bring their products to life with a 3D printer, BPL truly redefines what a library can be. BPL was seeking a branding agency to help them tell their story to the Boulder community, increase participation in a community survey, and perhaps most importantly, re-frame the role of the library in people’s lives.


A chance to be heard

Every ten years, the Boulder community has the opportunity to help determine the future plans of the library via a community survey. Past surveys have yielded great ideas from the community, like the Seeds Library Cafe and the BLDG 61 makerspace. This year, BPL wanted to make sure they heard from as many people in Boulder as possible, so they engaged with Ascend. The Boulder community is so unique and sophisticated that we were excited by the opportunity to create a marketing campaign for them. Our customer research showed the library’s members all used Facebook, so we created a geo-targeted campaign that featured a video to tell their brand story and linked to a custom-designed landing page for the survey.

A changing role in the modern era

Most people’s idea of a library is stuck in the past, when libraries were the go-to resource for books, research, and knowledge. However, in an era where all the world’s information is literally at our fingertips, we needed to dive deeper to uncover the library’s true role. Our engagement began with The MAVEN Method™ brand workshop, our proprietary branding process. This enabled us to quickly uncover what core purpose drives the leadership at BPL and understand their mission “to enhance the personal and professional growth of Boulder residents and contribute to the development and sustainability of an engaged community through free access to ideas, information, cultural experiences and educational opportunities.” This, combined with our innovative customer research techniques, allowed us uncover key insights that served as the foundation for the library’s brand strategy.

The key insight

We live in complicated times. The pendulum of information access has swung from difficult-to-find to information overload in about 20 years. Like all brands, BPL needed incredible messaging clarity to cut through the clutter and inspire the community to get involved. To create messaging with the kind of clarity required, we needed to figure out what value libraries create for people at the most fundamental level. The key insight we uncovered was that libraries exist to empower everyone. Libraries are one of the last bastions of the democratic promise of equal opportunity for all. No matter what your race, gender, or religion, you have access to a library. Libraries, like the Boulder Public Library, are teaming up with librarians whose main purpose is to help you achieve what you want to achieve. How amazing is that? No matter who you are, there is someone who believes in you and your dreams, and they are at the local library.

Building the brand story 

Boulder Public Library Magzine

We believe great marketing campaigns are built on a solid brand foundation. Using the MAVEN Method brand workshop, we were able to uncover BPL’s core brand elements. One of the key insights was BPL’s desire to be at the center of the Boulder community: to be the place where Boulder residents could gather and create change in the community, share ideas, or simply evolve as people. We tested this idea during our customer research phase and found that Boulderites did not yet perceive BPL in that way. Therefore, we knew this idea had to be a crucial part of our brand messaging and marketing campaign. BPL needed a rallying cry to bring the community together – this was the inspiration for the tagline “We are Boulder, Together.”

Boulder Public Library SAID:

"It was kind of remarkable that folks told our story back to us: trusted, inclusive. I was bowled over." David Farnan, Director of Library and Arts
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