Is your library looking for a new way to celebrate National Library Week, April 19-25? Here’s an engaging idea from the Bridges Library System in southeast Wisconsin: Share your patrons’ library stories with the community.
Jill Fuller, marketing and communications librarian for the Bridges Library System, explains, “Our plan was to collect a variety of stories from patrons and feature them in a series on Facebook and Instagram.” Library staff at the system’s 24 member libraries helped connect Jill with patrons who were willing to share their stories. She started by asking them questions such as “why do you visit the library?” and “what is the value of the library in your life?”
The answers included everything from an LGBTQ teen who said the library is a safe space for them to a patron who enjoyed the snowshoes they checked out. Jill says she finds it extremely rewarding to learn how the library makes a difference in so many people’s lives.
After the stories were collected, the “I Am the Library” series was launched during last year’s National Library Week. Jill decided to share one story a day during the week on social media. The stories were an instant hit. She was surprised by the attention the stories received online: “The response on social media was astounding; our posts were engaged with at a rate we had not seen before.”
Since then, she has continued to gather stories and posts them twice a month. The posts continue to be popular and have led to increased engagement with community members. She even created a webpage for the stories and added them to a printed handout that has been shared with state legislators and community stakeholders.
Jill says the great thing about story collecting is it can be done by all types and sizes of libraries. She adds, “These sorts of conversations already happen in our libraries through staff interaction with patrons, so it was just figuring out how to share these stories with our community.” She hopes other libraries will use story collecting to help promote their programs and services and show the value of libraries through the experiences of those who use them.
Due to the success of “I Am the Library,” Jill is developing a story-gathering toolkit for the system’s individual libraries to use, which will include a graphic template, a Q&A form, and tips on how to post the stories online.
According to Jill, libraries can adapt this type of project to their needs. She says it’s up to the library to make it as big or as small as they want depending on the available staff and resources. She encourages libraries to give story collecting a try: “National Library Week is a perfect time to share your stories, but it’s relevant all year long!”
Check out all the stories at the Bridges Library Systems website.