Sunday, September 29, 2013

Collecting library users' stories to showcase the impact of libraries

It has become a habit for me to apologise for not updating my blog as often as I ought to. Further, such an apology is accompanied by an explanation as to the reason for my absence from contributing to the blogosphere. Well, if it is acceptable for my limited but regular readership, let such a protocol be deemed to be observed.

A matter at hand has been my observation of the collection of library users' stories to showcase the impact of libraries. Fay Durrant, Jamaican LIS professor in 2006 said and wrote these words:
There is an interesting study of the use of one of the telecentres of the Jamaica Sustainable Development Network. One fisherman who knew how to access the weather reports on the Internet would each day get the forecast and explain it the others so that they could use the information to prepare for their fishing expeditions.
That story has been written up as Islands caught up in the Web in the UNDP magazine Choices by Barbara Blake Hannah a journalist in Jamaica. I think that it would be very useful for us as Caribbean librarians to seek out these stories from our users as a means of determining the impact of information.
Durrant is not the only one to advocate that libraries collect stories of patrons to help us understand the impact of our services. A more relatively recent publication by Nyström and Sjögren (2012) also raised this idea (see previous blog post review of this).

However, today, I report on one such practical application of this by a public library. Recently, London Public Library in Ontario, Canada collected stories from its community via it's Website and presented them via the use of social media, (Facebook in particular). Sharma (2013) in one of London's community newspaper reports  Delilah Deane Cummings, co-ordinator of community outreach and program services at the London Public Library as saying:

“The library is filled with stories in all different forms whether it is books or movies or magazines or e-books and we are inviting Londoners to share their stories with us and with the community” 
Her quote summarises my own views that the library is indeed a collection of stories that transcend media formats. Her quote also captures my viewpoint that libraries need to collect and document blogs that tell personal stories to add to the wider collection of narratives and stories that are documented in other media formats.

In this particular case, the library used the post card memoir format for collecting community stories. The London public library permitted community members to submit drawings, illustrations or text of 150 words. According to Sharma (2013):
The project, Postcard Stories, was launched... and ... in part inspired by similar ideas like the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s “Story Me”  — a blog-based project collecting the stories of everyday people and the everyday interactions library staff have with patrons.
These comments and practices get me wondering if the ideas that I think about for my thesis are being disseminated telepathically (or perhaps through my blog). I been blogging, thinking about and discussing these topics, issues and practices of collecting personal stories or personal memoirs about library use and impact for some time now (see: Article on storytelling for entrepreneurs and [possibly] for libraries and Corporate online storytelling: for libraries?). It is so good to see my thoughts and theoretical musings being manifested in reality.


Durrant, F. (2006, November). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting, National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, W. I. Retrieved from

Nyström, V., & Sjögren, L. (2012). An evaluation of the benefits and value of libraries. Oxford, U.K.: Chandos Publishing.

Sharma, S. (2013, Sep. 12). Your stories could be part of a new public library project. The Londoner. Retrieved from

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