Library Conference 2019

Keynote speaker Susan D. Ballard talks library branding in the digital age

Susan D. Ballard never forgot the customer service experience she had the first time she shopped at Nordstrom department store. She was so impressed she went on to read “The Nordstrom Way.”
Today, when pondering an issue, she asks herself “what would Nordstrom do?”

“I think we should be the Nordstrom of the educational world,” Ms. Ballard told a group of school librarians during the morning keynote address at the School Library System Annual Joint Conference, held March 29. “Branding is not just a logo, but a behavior,” she said.

 What Nordstrom has done is develop a system that always puts the customer first. Their goal is to have each experience be so wonderful the customer will not want to shop elsewhere. They do that by creating positive memories for each customer they serve.

It is a tactic Ms. Ballard feels would serve librarians well.

Hosted by Southern Westchester BOCES at its Harrison training center, the 2019 joint Library Conference theme is Building Upon Shared Foundations!  It features 10 breakout sessions with special focus on the alignment to the new AASL National School Library Standards. In addition to Ms. Ballard's opening keynote, the day concludes with an address by beloved author and illustrator Bryan Collier.

Ms. Ballard told the audience of several dozen school librarians from the region that every time they interact with a student or teacher, their attitude and behavior has the potential to create a life-long library patron.

“We have to think about that every time they have an experience with us. We are serving a customer for a lifetime,” she said.

Librarians must use their limited time with students, she added, to build their brand and build those positive memories.

It is a big responsibility, but one she knows each librarian has the ability to accomplish.

“You are a leader in your building,” she noted. “You are a leader, and you have to take up that understanding. You are the expert in school libraries.”

The goal is to have students become life-long library users. To do that, libraries must rise above the competition that comes from the internet. Google, YouTube and other such sites are pervasive, but do not provide the same service a library does. Librarians also teach students where to find credible information and how to access it.

To counter the Internet influence, Ms. Ballard suggested librarians look at their branding and their behavior.

“We help transform lives and communities,” she said. “We level the playing field.”

“We have to think about (whether) we want to be dinosaurs in the industry of education. I don’t think so. Education is no longer confined to brick-and-mortar schools.”

In order to remain relevant, Ms. Ballard said, “we have to reexamine our brand behavior and like Nordstrom, be legendary. It is about making a memory that will last a lifetime.”