Tina Thomas

Top 40 Under 40 2011

Photography 3Ten/Aaron Pedersen

Age: 38

Job Title: Director of Marketing and Fund Development, Edmonton Public Library

Why She’s Top 40: She’s the brain behind a rebranding strategy that re-imagined the EPL for the 21st century.

Key To Success:  “You’re better off doing a few things really well than a lot of things poorly.”

“I’m an information ninja” and “Beyonce’s latest. Beethoven’s greatest” are just two of the taglines from the marketing campaign Tina Thomas helped develop for the newly rebranded Edmonton Public Library. The ads, developed with local firm Donovan Creative and orchestrated in part by creative director Fiona Farrell (also a Top 40), are designed to shatter the old stereotypes of libraries.

Since the campaign’s launch last year, it’s led to increases in program attendance (25 per cent), overall borrowing (13 per cent) and card orders (a whopping 200 per cent) – not to mention a slew of international attention, including the John Cotton Dana Award, North America’s most prestigious prize for library marketing.

As the director of marketing, Thomas deserves much of the credit for this, and she’s starting to get it. Library Journal magazine named her one of its 2011 “movers and shakers.” The magazine’s editor, who nominated Thomas, also invited her to speak at a Library Journal session in San Francisco.

After a decade doing marketing and business development for Nortel in Ottawa, the Mill Woods native returned home in 2006 to be closer to her family after she became pregnant. She telecommuted for a while, but when Nortel sought bankruptcy protection in 2009, she took a buy-out and reassessed her career path. “I always thought of myself in the not-for-profit world,” she says.

Rebranding was Thomas’s first priority with the EPL, but she’s quick to point out that she’s not actually changing what the library does. Rather, she’s just promoting the ways in which it is already breaking new ground – from its off-site lending machine in an LRT station, to its partnership with Sony BMG, allowing card-holders to download free songs every week. Both are firsts in Canada.

At its most basic, Thomas says, “the book is just a way of sharing. It is a content type. But whether it’s on a computer, or words in a song, or a movie, that’s all content we’re sharing.”

Now, Thomas is in Edmonton to stay. A headhunter, spurred by her conference presentation,  has already tried to recruit her for San Francisco’s public library. She wasn’t interested.

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