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Opening of the New San Diego Central Library

The Challenge

With an original library built in 1954 to serve a population half its current size, San Diegans were eager to experience a newly-constructed, high-tech facility. With much anticipation surrounding the Central Library’s opening events, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker was tasked by the San Diego Public Library Foundation to:

  • Drive attendees to the Celebration and Sneak Peek event and to the library’s first day of business.
  • Educate the public on potential capacity and parking restrictions at opening festivities.
  • Secure media coverage of the library’s opening with strong name recognition of high-profile donors who contributed seven or eight-figure gifts to the San Diego Public Library Foundation capital campaign.

The Tactics

Working closely with the City of San Diego Public Library System, relevant stakeholders and using trend research, NST developed a tiered opening event plan to build momentum around three key audience sectors. NST took the lead on development of the plan and all communication efforts.

Key audiences were identified as:

  • San Diego media to create advocates of the project and generate public interest.
  • All 3,000 private donors who contributed to the capital campaign, with special recognition for the 18 individuals and eight corporations who had named areas within the library.
  • San Diego County residents as the new Central Library would be a public resource available to all.

The three-tiered strategy was timed to provide the public with multiple touch points about how to best experience the facility. Events were scheduled to spread out attendance to mitigate overcrowding and create positive experiences. The private media tour day was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 (a middle-of-the-week, traditionally slower media day), followed by the public Celebration and Sneak Peek street festival and dedication event on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 and concluded with the Library’s first official day of business on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. This blend of media relations and community outreach proved to be a successful combination.

The Results

  • More than 40 broadcast television hits within two days of the official sneak peek media day.
  • Standalone section within the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego’s major daily newspaper, to tell the extended story of the San Diego Central Library including a detailed floor-by-floor map and project highlights, which could be removed from the paper and used as a guide on opening day.
  • Approximately 12,000 people attended the San Diego Central Library Celebration and Sneak Peek with 7,000 touring first floor areas.
  • Estimated 8,000 individuals used the Central Library on its first official day of business, without any negative overcrowding or transportation issues to report.
  • More than 161 million estimated U.S. media impressions secured in print, broadcast and online media outlets.

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