The Storied Library

This post is probably long overdue, but now that the first essay seems to be gaining some traction among liblogs and elsewhere…

You may find this series at WebJunction worth reading. It consists of six articles (which originally appeared at roughly one-month intervals, which is also how I wrote them), the first of which is accompanied by “an expansion, with resources”–a significantly longer backgrounder.

I’m not sure what to say about the series. It was written on work time (WebJunction is part of OCLC), beginning this March. It’s “work for hire”–OCLC owns the copyright, but since it’s licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC license, that only matters if I want to include the columns in a future book (or other commercial venture) or someone else wants to do the same. In those cases, you or I would need OCLC’s permission.

I think it’s a good series. I’ve been saying for more than a decade that calling libraries “the information place” is seriously wrong and misguided. The idea that public libraries are mostly (not exclusively) about stories, using a broad definition of “stories,” is neither original nor new. (Wayne Wiegand has written about this stuff, far more literately than I do.)

This is also the series that caused me to stop making fun of consultants who “borrow your watch and tell you what time it is”– the third column in the series discusses the usefulness of having someone else visit your library to see the things about it that you’re likely to miss, just because it’s where you are. So, yes, having a consultant come in to tell you what you are can be worthwhile, even if in retrospect you say “but we should have known all that.”

Here’s the page from WebJunction, since the link at the beginning of this post may not be good for too long (I won’t be the “featured resource” forever!):

Featured Marketing Resource: The Storied Library

Walt Crawford

Read Walt Crawford’s series of articles on how to develop, communicate, and celebrate your library’s story.

The Storied Library—Introduction to the concept.

The Storied Library: Filling In the Story—An expansion, with resources, of the “Storied Library.”

What’s Your Story? —Walt talks to small libraries about story and brand, and figuring out what’s special about the stories they have.

The Storied Library: Developing Your Story —This installment sends librarians on a “fishing trip” to help put their library’s story into perspective.

Expanding Your Story, Finding Their Stories —Understand your library’s place in your community—both as a physical space and as an influence in people’s lives.

Telling Your Story — Once the story is crafted, it is ready for its audience.

Your Community’s Stories—Tips on how to publish your library’s story.

4 Responses to “The Storied Library”

  1. WoW!ter Says:

    I like it. You are coming very close to the Clue Train Manifesto. Markets are conversations. Libraries are more 2.0 already than most realize.

  2. Pete Says:

    Libraries are indeed conversations- conversations which are not about buying and selling but about being in a community, sharing insgihts from that community and beyond-or should be.
    Markets are in no way a conversation, even if they should be.
    Libraries aren’t markets for that matter.

  3. walt Says:

    Wow!ter: Since one of my very first articles, more than 20 years ago, was on libraries *not* being “just like businesses,” you should not be surprised that I don’t think of libraries as markets.

    Nor do I think of libraries as primarily conversations. There was/is an ALA initiative along those lines, and I fundamentally disagree(d) with its paper.

    But then, I’m not that fond of Cluetrain either (but haven’t read it in full–I do find it used too glibly, as with most manifestoes). Most markets aren’t conversations; they’re simple transactions, “offer:accept,” with no negotiation possible or desired.

    Libraries are libraries. In the U.S. at least, public libraries can and should build from strength in most cases…and that’s a longer conversation, one I’m trying to facilitate through books and Making it Work.

  4. John Says:

    Walt, I really like this series! Thanks for posting it as WebJunction is not part of my regular reading. I’m a big fan of the power of stories – people always create stories about themselves and the world around them and it is often these stories that help make the world sensible (admittedly, this can be both good and bad). Good marketing, with storied libraries, acts in some ways like the consultant process: the people who use the library may not always recognize the role the library plays in their own narratives (of success or happiness or whatever), so the goal can be nudging people to recognize explicitly the value of what they currently take for granted.


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