Full text of a letter from Hornall Anderson's Nory Emori to Marcellus Turner, Stephen Halsey, and the SPL Board

In her interview with Marcellus Turner yesterday, Laurel Holliday quoted Nory Emori from Hornall Anderson. The quote was from a letter dated October 14, 2015 ‐ so, clearly a response to the lack of public support from the survey. We wanted to post the letter in full, so you can see what the arguments from the company driving the rebrand were. The full letter, in Word format as provided by the library, is here.

14 October 2015

The Seattle Public Library
Marcellus Turner, City Librarian
Stephen Halsey, Director of Marketing and Online Services
Board of Trustees

Dear MT, Stephen, Trustees,

At the beginning of this project, we heard repeatedly that “now is the time to be bold.” The Seattle Public Library has a stable leadership team, is well funded, and has strong support from the community. The time for change is now because people still think a library is about books and magazines, but the library is so much more.

Technology is changing the way people think of books, information, and access to them. The demographics of Seattle are changing, especially at both ends of the economic spectrum, and those new to the city have no history with SPL. The Seattle Public Library cannot simply say it is not “a repository for books” but must shift people’s awareness from being all about books to fulfilling its mission of bringing people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. For the library to remain relevant, this must be seen and felt by the staff, supporters, patrons, and the community. This is what a brand is, not a logo or a statement, but a consistent experience founded on a set of values. Shifting a mission to reality takes tenacity, bravery, and a wholehearted belief in the necessity for change. Henry Ford famously said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” The public is not able to envision the future; it must be led.

In more recent times, think about the organizations that stayed the course, when signals all around them indicated it was time to change: Kodak. Blockbuster. They rested on the laurels of their historical success, banking on the stability of the status quo, until they found themselves too far behind the curve to regain their footing. Then there are the visionaries who see possibilities long before others see a need. When people still bought books at bookstores, Amazon started as an online bookstore. Now, any company that delivers anything – from items, to content, to the delivery services themselves – are at risk. When people could only complain about taxis, Uber came along and changed the expectation and value of an on-demand car service.

The most critical element is leadership with vision. Just as people would have told Ford they wanted a faster horse, so people are telling you to just buy more books. This is not a directive; rather, it is an indication that people do not yet see the vision for what libraries can be. You have, at this moment, the opportunity to shift the identity of the library, to tell people why you do what you do, and why it matters to them. Now is the time to be bold.

With great admiration and respect,

Nory Emori, and your Hornall Anderson team