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Gasp, it’s GASP!

March 2, 2010

I am normally leery of anything that involves a cutesy acronym.  When Alex Yarrow of Ottawa Public Library explained to our visiting class group that OPL had (oh horrors!) hired a consultant and used a system with the conveniently adorable name of GASP (Graphics, Ambiance, Style, Presentation) to manage the refurbishment of their branches, I was skeptical to say the least.  Having emerged out of the hospitality industry, the point of GASP is to create a unified look that represents the values of the organization without each branch being cookie-cutter identical. Members from all parts of the organization are invited to come up with adjectives that described how they felt the system should be in each of the GASP categories.  Perhaps not surprisingly the first library to use the GASP system was in West Palm Beach.

Looking around the newly refurbished Rideau branch, I had to admit it was pretty nice,  but I wasn’t convinced that it required a bunch of touchy-feely buzz-wording to co-ordinate your paint with your carpet.  It wasn’t until after the presentation, at the reception in the programme room downstairs (ooh, chocolate cheesecake bites, score!) that I grasped what the whole GASP thing was about.  Our hosts had displayed sample boards and designs for the branches they were refurbishing, and looking at them all together, I suddenly got it.  It wasn’t so much that each branch matched within itself (which it did) but that each branch matched each other.  And while you couldn’t necessarily tell what message the designs were supposed to be sending, it was clear that they were all on the same page, and that page looked pretty spiffy.

Do I think that every library should drop a bajillion dollars on a consultant to GASP them? No.  But I do think that the basic idea of having a unified vision of what your library should be, and extending that to all aspects of design and service is a good one. Gasp!

If you want to know more about the OPL GASP project,  it’s all online here.

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