The Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation

Background

The Chicago Public Library is internationally recognized for its leadership in reimagining the role of libraries, designing programs and promoting technology initiatives that connect Chicagoans of all ages and all backgrounds. The Library is a portal for opportunity in the 21st century. Many of the Library’s signature programs – from early childhood literacy to free homework help to CyberNavigators computer training – are made possible by funding from the Chicago Public Library Foundation. For more than 30 years, the Foundation’s private funding from individuals, foundations and corporations has provided tens of millions of dollars to the Library. After years of growth, each organization sought fresh, clear messaging to build on their legacies of success, to raise broader awareness of the reinvention of the Library, and to increase private funding.

Our Work

We collaborated with the leadership of the Library and the Foundation to build messaging frameworks tailored separately to each organization and its stakeholders, while recognizing their interconnectedness. Key goals: elevate brand awareness to increase use of Library programs by current users, attract new users, and inspire new private donors. We met regularly with each organization, and, with both, carried out interviews and focus groups with staff, management, and with private and foundation contributors to the Foundation to test familiarity with the full array of Library programs and the role of the Foundation. We also met regularly with FCB Chicago to coordinate the messaging with a new advertising campaign. And, for both the Library and Foundation, we developed strategic communications plans across all channels.

Impact

A central concept – curiosity – emerged uniting stakeholders in the Library and the Foundation. It is the idea that the Library is home to those who are curious, providing physical and digital space to Chicagoans of all ages to explore, connect, and grow. The Library connects the community to the highest-quality programs and services. Foundation funding provides new opportunities for the curious, and helps make a great Library exceptional. Messaging was tested with staff and board members of the Library and Foundation. The “curiosity” theme was rolled out through marketing and advertising campaigns across Chicago and underpinned the communications of both organizations.