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moving knowledge: MnDOT Library John Cotton Dana Award Application

Evaluation

MnDOT Library and its constituents have clearly benefited from the “moving knowledge” campaign. The combination of an improved look and layout of the library, the emphasis on innovative technology services, and the incorporation of a new brand identity has heightened the library's visibility, enhanced the quality of its services, and increased the number of users who benefit from the staff's efforts.  The comprehensive approach to the campaign worked well in tying the marketing and communication plan, the remodel, and technology initiatives together.  As a bonus, the library staff has been re-energized by this project.

Results Achieved: The success of the space redesign was immediately apparent by transforming the library from a traditional bland “government” look to a warm and inviting “corporate” look. This is demonstrated in the feedback that is often heard, “We now have a space that is equally representative of the excellence and expertise of our library staff” (MnDOT Research Director).  MnDOT Library has increased visibility and library usage from users who had never before sought assistance, including new MnDOT users from districts and the metro area, as well as greater Minnesota.  Meetings are held in the new collaborative spaces, giving the library a “social return-on-investment.”  The target audience did not change but the customer base expanded.  Staff have been embedded in more events, many of which were first-time events for library participation!  They include: 

  • Internal presentations to various MnDOT offices and employees;

  • External presentations at the annual conferences of the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, 2011 Special Libraries Association, and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (city/county engineering staff);

  • Conference booths at MnDOT Metro District Employee Days, American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota, the Spring Maintenance Expo, and the Minnesota “Toward Zero Deaths” Conference;

  • Hosted a MnDOT diversity event, the monthly Commissioner’s Reading Corner, and the University of Minnesota’s Osher Lifelong Learner Institute.  The library also offers monthly and walk-in tours.   

Increased usage of the remodeled space was measured with a tally clicker.  There is now an average of 22 people a day compared to two or less (undocumented) prior to the library redesign and marketing efforts. Attendance at the Grand Reopening Event was 370, a sizeable increase over the 2009 National Library Week open house, which had 240 attendees.

Awards: The “moving knowledge” campaign has already been recognized through the receipt of the following awards:

  • Special Libraries Association - MN Chapter: Innovation in Action Award 2011

  • Minnesota Association of Government Communicators: Northern Lights Award 2011

Changes:  In recent years, the library hosted no events and no outreach marketing had been done.  The new campaign provided for a complete turnaround in these efforts.  During the remodel, vendors were changed, (going from modular to wood furniture), and plans for new carpet and some furniture were canceled due to state contract limitations.  During the process of redesigning the website, the original design was revised in order to comply with MnDOT standards and templates.  An advantage of this change is that the website is now ADA-compliant.

Challenges:  Getting funding for this project was a competitive process made all the more challenging during the current recession. This demonstrates management's support of the library and their belief that the campaign could help improve library services to better serve all MnDOT employees.  Library staff and consultants executed the library development project within a constrained timeline, as the funding allocated for these projects needed to be spent by the end of 2010 and the remodel needed to be completed before the grand reopening event.  Challenges related to vendor miscommunications led to last-minute delivery of and adjustments to erroneous and damaged new furniture just prior to and during the library’s grand reopening event!  The remodel affected the daily work of all members of the library’s staff, who, throughout the campaign, maintained regular duties in providing high-quality services and materials to users.  The increase in customers and requests was a challenge, at first, but was mitigated with the addition of a part-time library intern.    

One temporary oversight, quickly resolved, was the need for media release forms and photo permissions for the video and website.

Lessons Learned:  It is cliché, but one of the biggest things learned from this campaign is that if you build it, they will come!  Other lessons learned were to use consultants whenever possible (depending on funding), print in smaller quantities (changes are inevitable), repurpose/reuse in-house resources, “think outside the box”, ask around and involve others, work from outlines but be flexible, and create a contingency spending plan to account for all potential budget variations.