Sunday, September 16, 2012
Telling the Library Story
So what is the library story?
I was reading a post about the Cruddas Park Library on Library Voices and fell in love with the simplicity of this story. One photographer, a sketch pad and testimonies that make Twitter feel too wordy. How could you not love it?
Libraries are on a constant quest to tell their story. An earlier post by Kathy shared the Infographic by ALA that tells why libraries are important. When I was in NJ they ran the Snapshot Day program that had people gather comments and pictures to share with elected officials and stakeholders. Other libraries have created a Day in the Life series.
All are great ideas, but they are only part of the equation.
Effective storytelling needs to be authentic, resonate with the listener and reach the right people. The best stories need to be told over and over again until it is embedded into the memory as truth.
Still that is only part of the equation.
For libraries to be truly effective with their stories, they need to frame the value of their role for the community. And that also needs to be authentic, resonate with the listener and reach the right people.
But that is tougher story to sell.
We live in a world where almost anyone can tell you Jennifer Aniston is engaged and that about 50% of marriages end in divorce. But wouldn't it make sense that people would be more interested in what makes the other 50% of marriages work? Sure it would but those headlines don't sell newspapers in grocery store checkout lines. The same problem exists for libraries. We are charged with telling stories about our value but what to do when "value" and "interest" aren't always the same thing?
An effective way to accomplish that is to tell a story that captures people's imaginations or pulls at their heartstrings. Sports writers do a great job with this. They highlight an individual and tell the story of triumph over adversities and people cheer for the player, the team, the sport.
So what is the library story?
It's the story of the college freshman who got through the first year because the library set up an outreach post in the dorm and helped with research, writing, proofing and provided the confidence until the student felt it.
It's the story of the woman who's adult son was diagnosed with a rare disease and through sheer determination and the help of her library teaching her how to use a computer was able to help him find the right treatment.
It's the story of the homeless woman who took the first steps to turning her life around because of a story she read while staying warm in a library.
It's the story of the woman who worked her way through law school and gave up the high powered salary and lifestyle to become a librarian because she wanted to help the teens in her community succeed.
It's the story of the parolee who made the transition to a straight life because he hung out in the library instead going back to the streets.
It's the story of estrangement to reunion; failure to success; despair to hope.
The library story is the human story.
The formula for writing such a story is simple. We outlined in our book, Bite-Sized Marketing and I've given countless workshops. I'll post the outline tomorrow.
Posted by Nancy Dowd at 1:50 PM