Simple Steps to Brand a Library: Helen Matthes Library’s experience

In March of 2007, four general operating referendum attempts had failed. Helen Matthes Library knew something needed to change. One of those changes was to create a known and loved brand for the library. Choosing a logo was just the first step in branding Helen Matthes Library in Effingham, Il.

As with many small libraries, our library did not have funding to pay for a graphic designer to create a logo.  Instead, Helen Matthes Library decided to have a logo design contest.  Participants were asked to create a logo to be used in a variety of ways including letterhead, flyers, t-shirts, marketing materials, advertisements, etc.  It also needed to reflect our values, vision and mission statements.  We also asked, if possible, to include our new tag line “Check Out What’s Inside”.  One of the goals of our branding effort was to increase awareness of the variety of new and relevant services the library offered. To ensure that this goal was met, we required that the logo did not include books or computers.  The logos were voted on by patrons of the library, and the winner was announced during National Library Week.

The winning logo was a magnifying glass and was a perfect fit for our tagline “Check Out What’s Inside”!  The winning design was tweaked for the various purposes of letterhead, etc.  (As part of the submission form, the creators were required to give all rights of the logo to the library.) The contest was announced in the newspaper and on the radio and the winner was pictured in the newspaper with the new logo.  This created much publicity and people began to associate us with our logo.

The logo was then used on all marketing and promotional materials that were produced by Helen Matthes Library including letterhead, newsletters, flyers and posters, etc.  Since many staff members are responsible for making flyers and promotional materials for the library, a set of guidelines was formed.  These guidelines included logo size and placement on a flyer, capitalization or punctuation of certain words, and which logo to use on what type of document. (e.g. header logo for press releases, smaller logo on the flyers)

Our logo is mostly black and white, so recently we have added a color scheme to go along with our marketing materials.  This brings our main library brochure, library catalog brochure, and online resources brochure and other items together to create a uniform look.  Also to create a uniform look, adult program flyers are now created from a template with a different color depending on what type of event we are hosting.  So when patrons see the color green, they know it is a movie or the color red, a computer class.

Branding is a continual process, but ours started with our logo.


Helen Matthes Library is located in Effingham, Illinois. The library is a city library serving a population of 12,300. When the branding process started in March of 2007, the library was operating with a total budget of $573,000 and there was not a budget line item for marketing.

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2 Responses to Simple Steps to Brand a Library: Helen Matthes Library’s experience

  1. illinoislibrariesmatter says:

    Congrats Jeanne. Thanks for this story of innovation. Do you have any pdfs of some of the materials?

  2. That’s a nice point. Thanks for sharing it. It pays to know something new in different things.

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