Recasting the Narrative: Librarians As Storytellers in a Changing World

Posted by Duncan Whitmire on 4/8/19 12:11 PM

Conferences, First Year Experience, Credo in Action, Assessment

public-speaking-3926344_640The theme for this year’s ACRL conference is “Recasting the Narrative,” and in this era of rapid-fire disruption it’s hard to avoid thinking about how institutions we take for granted will have to transform themselves. As the information landscape flips upside-down and inside-out, librarians are uniquely positioned to help people navigate this new reality. But rather than serve as the traditional gatekeepers and tour guides of information, one of the trends we’re seeing today is the evolution of librarians as storytellers.

This excellent editorial in CR&L by Wendi Arant Kaspar does a great job of talking about the shifting roles of librarians within the context of changes in higher education, shrinking staffing and budgets, and emerging needs of communities. In our work with thousands of libraries around the world, we’re fortunate to see firsthand how librarians are responding to these concerns, and lately the theme of storytelling has been a constant.

Storytelling as a Demonstration of Value

One of the biggest consequences of the public misconception that librarians spend their days shushing rowdy teens and answering questions about state capitals is that it takes away from the understanding of the value libraries offer their communities. In our FYE Guide, Raymond Pun includes a chapter on assessment, which he wraps up by discussing the imperative for librarians to use their findings to market services to users and justify programming costs to administrators. You can also review this post from our InfoLit Learning Community, which rounds up several great resources for leveraging usage statistics to tell your library’s story.

Join Nicholls State University’s Brandy Burbante on April 24th at 2:00 PM EDT to learn more strategies for promoting your library to students, faculty, and administrators: Creating a Buzz: Getting Faculty and Students Excited About Library Resources. (If you’re seeing this post after the fact, the link will still take you to the webinar recording.)

Storytelling in Instruction

Librarians are often tasked with providing one-shot instruction to various classes, and the time constraints and limited resources often make it difficult to much more than list a few relevant databases and teach the preferred citation style. But more and more we see that librarians who are able to weave storytelling into their instruction sessions make a bigger impact on students and enjoy more collaborative relationships with faculty. This doesn’t mean your next scavenger hunt has to reach the epic proportions of The Hero’s Journey, but it does say something about the value of adding context and purpose to research skills instruction. From using community-based learning to help students study issues, to escape rooms, to other creative and engaging activities, librarians are finding exciting new ways to use storytelling as a vehicle for teaching users essential information literacy skills.


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