Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I want to tell stories

As I settle down in the new job, I have a bit of time to think about the job itself and things I would like to do. I am now responsible for the library's newsletter. By the way, I have been informed that we need to be getting that publication out pretty soon, so it looks like my list of things to do got one more urgent item on it. Moving along, my director has expressed a strong interest in blogs and other online tools. I am planning a library blog for us among other things. I don't want it to be just a library news blog. I want the blog and other tools to tell a story, our story.

The idea of using stories to spread the library's good works is not new. For example, Michael Stephen's (who seems to need some help getting dressed) blog explores the theme of telling the stories of the library frequently. One example is his post on "Telling the Library's Story." Personally, I am more intrigued by the method, by the idea of finding and nurturing stories. The Anecdote blog, which deals with stories and work, had a small post by Shawm on "How to Make Your Workplace More Storyable." For the authors of the blog, stories facilitate knowledge flow. For me, it is not just the knowledge, though knowledge is important. It's the stories as well and how they can bring people together. I am the type of person who can go to social gatherings and simply let others talk. I like encouraging that when possible. This idea about stories makes sense in the library since the library is a place where people come together. Shawn gives some ideas on making the workplace more "storyable." I think I can learn a thing or two from this. As usual, the stuff not quoted is my humble thinking. Emphasis in the original.

  • "Do remarkable things." From the brief time I have been in my new job, I can see we come together to do some very remarkable things. I got here on time to help out with our Banned Books Week Readout. We participated in the campus chili cook-off, one of the Homecoming events (more on that later). Events like that are remarkable, and we should be telling those stories. We should also be telling stories about the remarkable service we offer our students and academic community on a regular basis. I am hoping to be the one telling some of those stories. I also hope to encourage others to share their stories as well.
  • "Know how to ask story eliciting questions. Don't just ask for the facts. Ask 'What happened?' 'Tell me about a time when ...' 'When was the last time ...'." In essence, get people talking. Use more open-ended questions. Shawn also offers a post on "Questions to Elicit Stories" that may provide some more food for thought in this regard.
  • "Eat together." This is self-explanatory. Shawn observes that in many workplaces people don't stop for lunch. I will make a different observation: if you do stop for lunch, do talk. Watching the soaps in the breakroom does not count. Maybe bringing food now and then to a meeting, or even agreeing to having a small lunch at a near campus location. A small meal can do wonderful things for small conversations.
  • "Tell stories. Someone has to start modelling the behaviour so why not start the trend yourself." Shawn admonishes against making a big deal. Just jump right into the recounting. I imagine that once the behavior is in place that telling stories would be second nature. You just do it.
I am setting out then to discover how "storyable" is my library. And then, I am going to explore ways of telling some of those stories.


waltc said...

Might I suggest that you also check out the series of stories I did at WebJunction, precisely on the theme of telling the library's story (and the library helping to tell the community's stories)?

You can start here, at least for now.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

You certainly can suggest. I was not aware of that resource. Thanks for the tip.

Best, and keep on blogging.