Telling Our Story

The library story isn’t new, but it is one that continually changes. Part of the challenge in building our case is to get people’s attention and convey the value that libraries deliver.

One way to get people’s attention is to surprise them with some impressive numbers. Figuring the dollar value of service delivered in return for funds invested is one way to do this. The Winter Park (FL) Public Library featured a front-page headline Translating numbers into interesting and colorful comparisons also can make a strong statement, i.e., “Americans spend seven times as much on video games as they do school library media programs.” Or, “College libraries receive less than two cents of every dollar spent on higher education.”

But numbers aren’t the whole story when it comes to telling our story.

Collecting and sharing library user success stories puts a face on the library and can warm the heart in a way that numbers alone can’t.

  • Remember, a few good numbers is better than a long list, which most people won’t remember.
  • Ask library users to share their success stories. Put out a note book or sponsor a contest, possibly in connection with National Library Week in April or Library Lovers Month in February. The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids, MI, called its contest “Share a Memory.”
  • Encourage all library staff and advocates to report library success stories that they hear and to get contact information.
  • Work with a high school or college journalism instructor to have students conduct interviews and report on how the library makes a difference.
  • Include a “Tell us how the library helps you/your family.” when conducting user surveys. Put a link on the Web site. Also save and quote from thank-you notes sent by users.
  • Put your amazing numbers and library stories to work. Feature in the annual report, newsletter, public service ads and press materials. Post them on the Web site.
  • Be sure to ask permission to use names with stories. Stories often can be used without names. When using students’ names or pictures, be sure to follow school policies.
  • Share your library user success stories! The American Library Association needs stories to use with the media, in speeches and in testimony before Congress. Send to the ALA Public Information Office, Attn: Library Stories, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611 or send e-mail to

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