When you are in the business of ideas, you cannot ever afford to be dull and mundane. But coming up with new ideas is never easy—no matter how many years you have been in the business. Creative agency, Leo Burnett, is leaving no stone unturned to encourage new ideas. The agency’s Mumbai office in Parel, is teeming with fresh and young energy. But sometimes, this energy can also be distracting.

“Often, when the noise level becomes too high, I try to find a quiet corner for myself. Luckily for me, the library is right at the end of the office. And I get to sit there and think by myself, whenever I need to," says Shivani Gairola, 24, a copywriter at Leo Burnett.

The library in Leo Burnett is more than just a place to keep the books. Just like Gairola, many other employees use it for their alone time, for team building, for meetings and obviously, to read and research.

“Our business is about inspiration. It is important for our people to have a stimulus within arm’s reach, especially during a thinking block. And what better way than a library to help them find some inspiration?" says Dheeraj Sinha, managing director—India and chief strategy officer, South Asia, Leo Burnett.

The library is filled with all sorts of books—from books on brand thinking, design, marketing, sociology, and culture to old D&AD and One Show volumes. The agency also subscribes to online resources like the Cannes Lions archive and marketing intelligence service WARC’s journals. “In a sense, we don’t just have a physical library, but an online one too," adds Sinha.

Gairola further says that she often picks up old publications from the library to get inspired—D&AD journals being one of her top picks. “I have even read this one entire book on the Avis’s (a car rental company) We Try Harder campaign. It was so interesting to go beyond just how an ad was made but understand how one campaign changed the image of the company itself," she adds.

Sinha believes there is no direct connection between creativity and the library. “It’s not like someone can pick up a book and use an idea. The library exists for broad inspiration, so that people can pick up a book and be inspired when they go back to their desks. We simply want to encourage exploration in our people and aid them in being the best thinkers," explains Sinha.

Gairola says she looks at old print ads in the library to see how they used to be designed. While the internet has a plethora of all TV and online ads in its archive, for print, she believes, it is best to check the magazines or old publications.

Gairola’s colleague, Shruti Sud, is a brand strategy partner in the agency. Sud, 28, comes from a marketing background in the client’s side. A “newbie" to the advertising industry, Sud had a few months to learn the tricks of the trade.

“Initially, when the work-flow was slightly lighter, I used to go to the library to understand what all is happening. I borrowed a book on account planning called True Fliers of Advertising that gives a history of the specific role account planning has played over the years," she says.

Humankind, Leo Burnett’s working philosophy, also gets reflected in books in the library. Sud picked up books to learn more about it, how purpose driven advertising can be done, how can advertising solve a problem. Another one of her favourites, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, was recommended to her by the seniors of the agency, which she found at the library as well.

Many of these books, Gairola points out, are hard to find in Indian bookstores because they are niche subjects. Sometimes ordering them from abroad is out of the question because of the costs involved. It therefore helps that the Leo Burnett library has a collection of these hard-to-find books and employees are allowed to take them home for up to a month. An administration staff also keeps track of which book has been issued to whom, what are the books being recommended or asked for, and likewise, orders new issues every few months.

The library works for all of them as a place for inspiration, research, and also to have a quiet time—the perfect recipe for idea generation.

Book Tales is a series which looks at in-house reading and researching facilities that are helping employees to upskill and work smarter.

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