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What is a library?

“A quiet place for study and reflection” is one answer that might spring to mind.

If you take advantage of story times and author talks, you might say, “A social place for programs and gatherings.”

Our view here at the Library of Congress is the image of a treasure chest, filled with limitless information and services, ready to explore and amaze if you open it up.

So today, the Library of Congress is introducing a new visual brand that seizes on this concept and amplifies it. It can change to feature different collection items, stories, images and sounds. The potential is limitless, like the Library itself.

What does this mean for you?

The launch of this new visual brand coincides with the upcoming release of the Library’s new strategic plan, a user-centered plan that will drive the Library’s direction over the next five years.

The plan aims to make the Library’s collections and services more accessible to more of you. A fresh visual identity is intended to signal that something new is happening here, and we want you to be a part of it.

In the coming weeks, we will share not only our new strategic plan, but a series of other announcements reflecting our goal to make the nation’s library a place you can connect with in new and meaningful ways.

What is a library? There is no right or wrong answer. But we hope in the coming months and years you will come to think of the Library of Congress as part of your answer.

Comments (61)

  1. The focus on the future of the Library is wonderful to feel. We all know of our challenges but the uniquely true and expanding value of what the Library has to offer, to help everyone is being shared, as so much greater than the challenges. To me, this means expanding hope. I have come to consider the LOC as a strong heart of an essence of saving and sharing knowledge throughout our world. It is of the utmost importance that those who lead have the heart and dedication to use this great resource in the most extensive, magical way possible. From my vantage point this guest post by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden lovingly accomplishes that goal. May we all join in respecting it and expanding the goal in ways that serve the public for which it is intended. It is a joy to be able to participate.

  2. I am very pleased to know that I can have access to an information service so relevant to the development of knowledge.

  3. Lovely concept but that new logo. A generic bold font spelling out “LIBRARY” has so little visual identity, it might as well not even exist. You speak about a treasure chest full of endless possibility, but where is the magic and personality? The new logo feels like an after thought and doesn’t express your mission at all. There is nothing that makes you want to take a second look and explore further. Very disappointing.

  4. The library of Congress has always been a great source of information delivered in a timely manner. I was able to produce and publish two books from resources in the library. In fact the images on their covers came from the library.

    I’m looking forward to the next steps in the future.


    John Michael

  5. “Library Library of Congress”


  6. Response from the Communications Office:
    Thank you for your interest and for the feedback. The use of a word as a logomark is known as a “wordmark,” which is a contemporary approach to branding. The focus on the word “library” is intentional. Casual visitors often fixate on the words “of Congress,” and are unsure whether they are allowed to use the resources here. Emphasizing the word “library” as a wordmark helps deliver the message that the Library of Congress and its resources are for everyone.

  7. Good message / strategic direction, but the logo is awful and I strongly disagree, the wordmark does not deliver any kind of message when presented so blandly. No visual interest, no message, no identity, it’s like a robot designed it. And it reads terribly (“library library of congress”).

  8. I am interested in LOC resources and ebooks to keep me informed about the world I live in!

  9. The Library of Congress is a national treasure. I have used it extensively for my own research, and its resources have been invaluable to me. Its staff members have always been tremendously knowledgeable and helpful, and I look forward to visiting again as soon as I can.

    That said, I’m afraid I must second the comments of Bitter Betty and Ryan above. The redundancy of the word “Library” is particularly odd and disconcerting, regardless of the trendiness of “wordmarks” in contemporary approaches to branding. Perhaps the Library itself is underestimating the cultural value and broad understanding of its own name. I don’t believe that the general public would consider itself to be excluded from its resources because “Congress” is included in the name; on the contrary, that word is an absolutely essential part of the name that conveys that this is a special library — it is the national library of the United States. Most people, and certainly all serious researchers, know this very well. Diminishing “Congress” from the name strips the LoC of precisely what is special about it.

    What’s more, a library such as the LoC wants to be relevant to present-day researchers of all kinds, of course, but it also ought to communicate that it is a great trove of historical knowledge, something which the name conveys very well. The Jefferson Building, in particular, is very well known and popularly associated with the LoC — why not incorporate its iconic dome in the logo? Instead, the new logo makes the LoC appear less special and more generic.

    I’m sure that the LoC staff had the very best intentions in instituting this change, but I, for one, think that it is an unfortunate mistake.

  10. This is possibly the worst rebrand I’ve ever seen.

    “Our view here at the Library of Congress is the image of a treasure chest, filled with limitless information and services, ready to explore and amaze if you open it up.”

    So you chose the enormous letters LIBRARY to signify this concept?

    “It can change to feature different collection items, stories, images and sounds. The potential is limitless, like the Library itself.”

    You can’t seriously expect people to slap a huge LIBRARY over something and have them understand its meaning. It doesn’t mean anything at all by itself, and that makes it a failure of a logo.

    Disappointed, but not surprised. Glad to see our tax dollars being wasted on this garbage.

  11. To reiterate my peers and illustrate popular consensus,

    The Library of Congress –> An amazing resource for all
    Dr. Hayden –> A fantastic leader and visionary
    This new logo –> Terrible

  12. The old LOC logo included the symbolism of both the American flag and the book. The new logo removes both symbols and replaces them with…no symbolism at all. The large word LIBRARY is as bland as the sign for a laundromat or the printing on a bag of cement. The smaller text is the new logo adds nothing other than a sense of bureaucracy, identical to a sign in a hallway that one would interpret as barring entry by anyone but a member of Congress. The new logo is, quite simply, a counterproductive design that would not withstand scrutiny by any real scholar of branding. Sad!

  13. Love the Library of Congress but the new logo is terrible.

  14. Great move and beautiful logo, reflecting a more user-centric approach as per the Library’s new strategic plan.

  15. Please, I beg you, do not make this logo permanent without fully considering the opinions of the public. A library is a place with varied ideas and a gathering space for dissenting voices.

    My first reaction to the logo is that it says Library twice: Library Library of Congress. Everyone I’ve shown it to also has that first reaction.

    Secondly, there’s no magic to it. It looks like something a hungover graphic design student threw together on MS Paint.

  16. Seriously ugly logo. Somehow manages to be bland and imposing at the same time. Yet more proof that Pentagram is really heading downhill.

  17. I don’t think that the new logo is ineffective. LOC needed to change direction and that is what this is. It works because it effectively puts the emphasis on the word Library, emphasizing access to materials. It also works because it is asking the visitors to help define its brand. In a few years LOC will need to go through another rebranding exercise, and that new brand will represent the character that this period will expose.

  18. “Epic”. “Magnificent”. “Colossal”.

    These are a few of the words I could not decide upon to precede the word “failure”.

    It is unfortunate to see the Library’s latest rebranding effort garnering an outpouring of negative sentiment across major social media and design channels. The local community, designers, and those associated with the Library are unabashedly airing their disappointment over a now grossly misrepresented institution. Gone is the timeless iconography that tipped its hat to classic LOC architectural adornments or library-esque symbology. Enter a freshly minted authoritarian, nihilistic “wordmark” of hulking proportion and utterly generic, dispassionate presentation.

    The backstory explaining the logo remains buried at best and will continue to fade from public view as the atmosphere around the launch dissipates. A majority of the Library’s virtual and physical visitors will never encounter the press release or video to become educated on why a properly formed English word is being sliced into several grammatically incorrect fragments and fused back together with random imagery.

    Let’s hope we can look forward to seeing internal focus group testing and polling before buying into any more trendy, “high art” design firm visions that are ill-suited for a time-honored government institution.

  19. I frankly love the minimalist logo.

  20. I like the new logo! Such an improvement…feels fresh but not trendy. Don’t let the critics get you down; some people have a hard time with change.

  21. This is worse than Olive Garden.

  22. The response to the logo criticism from the Communications Office is appreciated, but with all due respect, if one has to explain why a logo is working, the logo isn’t working. The previous logo had dignity, a classic typeface, and also a little panache, the open book turning into a waving flag. The typeface choices on the new logo are truly uninspired, and “wordmark” or not, library library is redundant redundant.

  23. This is a bad re-brand. Library of Congress should have a more dignified, all-encompassing feel. Now it looks like the Walmart of libraries.

  24. The new logo is brash, loud, and redundant. It looks like the logo of an aggressive, big-city library and would look better if the big “library” was followed by the name of that city.

    If the problem was that people focused too much on “of Congress” (which I would argue is not a bad thing), then the solution is to revise the old logo/textmark with a modern font, increase the size of “library,” reduce the size of “of Congress,” and leave them stacked next to the old book/flag logo. Evolutionary!

  25. Oh dear. Redirected here from the Vermont state library. I only clicked through because I was sure somehow they had been taken in by a spoof / Onion / fake news post.
    “What is a library? There is no right or wrong answer.”
    What is a good logo? Well, there’s clearly a wrong answer to that.
    1) As noted above, this does not express the intended “treasure chest” idea. Does not express “library” except for the word, in big boldface font. (And beware if you need a metaphor to explain your intent.)
    2) In online typography, which is how most users will encounter this design, bold face & all caps denotes shouting, so the new logo to me clearly says “shouting in libraries.”
    3) I do like the little Monty Python-esque animations. A bit 1970, but otherwise original and clever.
    4) Have to agree with the consensus that LIBRARYLibrary of Congress looks redundant.
    5) I’m not entirely enamored of the old logo but besides change for the sake of change I don’t see what’s gained here. The new logo fails to express anything original or unique about the Library of Congress, its mission or history. It could be just as easily used to brand USEDCARS or DISCOUNT almost anything (with today’s hot deal splitting the words). Reeks of desperation, design by committee and misguided focus groups.

  26. The “book flag” logo was both memorable and iconic. The new logo is neither. While the concept of showing all the Library has to offer is interesting, the execution is abysmal. The lockups for print, web and other uses look as if they were created in Powerpoint. The new identity would be appropriate for a generic brand found in the aisles of your local Target, not for our national Library. The LoC was sold the Emperor’s New Clothes by Pentagram.

  27. Oh no Library, you stole my trademark saying;

    “Bond, James Bond”

    “Library, Library of Congress”

    Please publish how much you spent on the new log…did you happen to run this by your own employees? I think not. Horrible decision……………

  28. You did a bad job.

  29. This may be the ugliest logo I’ve ever seen.

  30. I don’t get it. Everything about it confusing.

  31. I do not like this new logo for the Library of Congress. The repetition of the word “Library” is just plain silly. The older logo was a bit conservative but it implied stability, strength, and was classy. The new one seems to be like one of those visual puzzles where you know something is not quite right about it. So who was clamoring for a change from the old logo? Change for change’s sake doesn’t usually result in an improvement.

  32. Does the Library really need a new logo? Does this visual change actually solve any real problems that the Library is facing? Is this a real accomplishment that everyone cares about? Do you consult your own employees about this new design? Apparently not.

    This is so typical…

  33. I love the Library of Congress.
    The Library of Comgress is not boring. The new logo is.

  34. Halloween came early! The new logo is hideous.

  35. This información Will very useful for any librarian in different countries.

  36. This is probably the most hideous logo/brand that the Library of Congress could have chosen. Who picked it? Why? It comes at one in a really harsh and negative way. The Library of Congress is not a public library in the same sense as a local system. Of course, it is taxpayer supported. Of course, it is important to demonstrate what a wealth of resources it offers. But spending funds on a rebranding effort that results only in a disjointed, off-putting graphic is a waste, and removes any vestige of dignity that the agency might still carry as a world-class institution.

    So . . . No, no, no! Get rid of it! Please! It is embarrassingly cringeworthy.

  37. Just another remark: In times of social media, one needs a square icon so often. Therefore, looking at e.g. your Facebook page, the profile picture only says “library” without any visual cue about which library it is. The logo is too broad.
    The lettering is not easy to remember or recognise, either, as it’s so generic.

  38. The old logo was looking a little dated and pretentious. The new logo is a clean minimal design and is more accessible to younger users. They are going for welcoming rather than austere. I like it.

  39. Library library of congress? An important principle of design: If you cannot come up with a better design, don’t change the design.

    Please change it back, and don’t change it again until you come up with something worthy of your institution.

  40. Terrible, terrible logo. Seriously, who thought this looked good? Please tell me this was an unpaid intern’s work because it wasn’t worth any other cost–all the grandiose and arrogant explanations notwithstanding

  41. New logo is horrible. Redundant.

    How much money did this one cost?

  42. I can only reiterate what others have said – this logo screams REDUNDANT in big bold san serif. Definition: “the state of being not or no longer needed or useful.” I would argue that this is not true of the Library of Congress, but looking at this logo now, I wonder. Best word to describe the change – UGH.

  43. If you wanted a fresh look, update the accompanying type. No need to drop a bold, unique logo in place of a boring font.

  44. Did the people who approved and wasted taxpayer funding on this bland, dull rebrand stop to look at the other lazy rebranding that Pentagram turns in for a number of their other clients?

    Congratulations – now the LOC has the same derivative “modern” approach that tries to say everything but succeeds in saying nothing.

  45. Did the people who approved and wasted taxpayer funding on this bland, dull rebrand stop to look at the other lazy rebranding that Pentagram turns in for a number of their other clients?

    Congratulations – now the LOC has the same derivative “modern” approach that tries to say everything but succeeds in saying nothing.

  46. The old joke about the Sistine Chapel is that a consultant would have painted it a shade of off-white and charged three times as much for the choice. Your new logo replaces a classic iconic with a generic word in a generic font.

    I hope you didn’t pay a consultant to provide you with a bolded ariel font “LIBRARY” and pretend that a word is a logo. Gone is the US flag flowing from the book that ws so beautiful and iconic. Replaced with the redundant word “LIBRARY Library of Congress”. I thought it was a sick joke until it was emblazoned on the website. It evokes nothing of being the national library of the United States, just a generic library in a generic font.

    Please revert back to your old logo. It’s iconic, classic, easily identifiable, and gives LC a personality. The new logo is as exciting and personable as off-white paint.

  47. Instead of using a logo to convey that the Library of Congress is for everybody, just rename the library as “Capitol Hill Library.”
    And get a better logo.

  48. I love the Library of Congress. I hate that no one would ever suspect what a national treasure it is by this horrible new logo. It doesn’t inspire curiosity at all. Walk on by. Nothing to see here. I beg the Library (now Library Library) to rethink this unfortunate decision.

  49. Please go back to the old logo. Library Library of Congress is just stupid. Also, America is red, white, and blue not Halloween orange and black. Glad you paid high bucks for this bad brand.

  50. I agree with the negative comments. This new logo is an egregious insult to the dignity and character of our historical Library of Congress. How could you think this new redundant logo is an improvement over the beautiful book flowing into our flag. The word Congress means to me; of the people, for the people, and by the people…our continuing history in book form for all to access.

  51. I agree with Dee. I don’t see how this logo reflects anything unique about the organization or our country. Library leadership seems to forget that we the people elect our representatives in Congress and thereby Congress represents the people’s interests. The Library is a treasure for our nation and not any generic library or organization as the logo seems to imply. The former logo was timeless and lives up to expectations of what the Library of Congress should or ought to be. We want to be proud of our great institutions. Please bring it back. Join me and write to your representatives.

  52. In a time when visual literacy rules, the LIBRARY chooses this rebrand?

    It’s loud, abrupt, and devoid of meaning. Amaterish, at best.

    Get it together, LOC! We’re better than this. This logo is embarrassing.

  53. As I was attending one of the panel discussions at the wonderful Book Festival yesterday, I was trying to figure out why the backdrop behind the speakers had this ugly, repeated logo saying “Library Library of Congress.”
    “Fresh visual identity” and “treasure chest”?
    Everything about this logo is awful, from the redundant language, to the font and colors. This is a PR failure. Please change it back!!

  54. The old logo looked like wings, like a book, like an American flag. Gorgeous. And now, it’s LIBRARY Library of Congress? Is the next revision going to be LIBRARY of Congress CONGRESS? This looks like an interim logo for a temporary institution. 1983’s vision of 2001. The previous logo looked grand, like a place that had nurtured learning for decades. This new one looks dated already.

  55. Sorry, but the Wordmark is as bland as a paper napkin.

    The book reference in the old logo (a classic) may have been outdated, but surely there were some creative wordmark solutions to choose from.

  56. At first I was convinced that the old logo was a better fit for the government Library, but checking out the new Library website I understand that the new logo is a logical solution. Logic is not always pretty.

    It is easy to judge a design when your only point of reference is your own personal taste. Do I like it? Yes or no? Whatever, I’ll just chime in with the shitstorm like the rest of the herd.

    Finding a suitable design for an institution that is going the way of digitalisation is not that easy. The Library is reinventing itself to give the same benefit to the people like it always has. Only nowadays most people are not walking the sacred halls to read books printed on paper anymore. You know it’s true. Information needs to be quick and easy on my mobile phone or tablet. In my opinion the new look and feel supports just that.

    At last one has to take into account that there are propably copyright issues involved with the old logo. That means you cannot just take the book icon for example and reuse it in the new logo without paying up to the original designer. And to be honest, that icon is not doing the library justice anymore, because it is offering so much more than books now. Make a multimedia icon then? Maybe yes, but it will just clutter the logo.

    So yes, I undestand that it’s hard to get used to a new logo and most of the time it is not love at first sight. Maybe there could be a better solution than repeating the word Library in the logo, that would be nice. But for now, the new logo serves its purpose so yeah, i guess it’s okay.

  57. What puzzles me: the logo accomplishes nothing of what the Library, its strategic plan, and the explanation for this new identity, claims to want to do. As others note, first it is a generic word. Second, it repeats that generic word. Third, it leaves in place (and reinforces) the impression (which the effort claims to want to correct) that the LC is just for Congress. An identity could have been designed that said “The Library for Congress and the Nation” or something. Or, as others have said, included a tagline along the lines of “because a self-governing people needs access to the best information available anywhere.” Fourth, it includes no visual reference or echo of anything related to the LC or its unique visual iconography. Fifth, it visually clashes with the visual feast of that iconography as well as of any of the rich colorful (yet all different) book festival posters. If some evil Russian bot had requested a logo to alienate people from the LC, they could not have succeeded better.

  58. This was my first time looking for the LOC. And to be honest I thought that it was a logo for a non affiliated website. And didn’t think it was actually the real deal. It was only after searching further did i realize it was actually for the correct web site. It really needs corrected. I am possibly more persistent than some others of the general public. So many may not have continued to search. Need a first page with info about the library. And what is there. Rather than an explanation why the bad logo and front page are really good. Reminded me of the Obama care website roll out debacle. Hope it didn’t cost as much.

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