Posted by: bluesyemre | December 15, 2017

3 essential elements to consider when creating a voice for the #library: #storytelling, experience, and play – Interview with #MattFinch


Community engagement is an important aspect of libraries’ success in the 21st century.

To share some hands-on tips with you, we’ve had a chat with Matt Finch, a creative researcher working with libraries in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and the USA to help them use storytelling with the community when creating a voice for the library.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the roles you took in your work with public libraries?

write and make fun things for people to do in public places, but essentially, I’m a catalyst: I reduce the energy required for reactions to happen in organizations and communities of all kinds. Together we surface new ideas, build internal & external relationships, and deliver compelling, sustained community engagement.

Together we surface new ideas, build relationships, and deliver sustained #community engagement.CLICK TO TWEET

In public libraries, I’ve worked with a range of institutions to develop new ways of engaging the community – from local stories on coffee cups to a citywide burlesque festival, live zombie battles, time travel roleplay in the US, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as other approaches such as the Fun Palaces art-and-science movement.

2. How do you help libraries tell a story about who they are?

Storytelling is all about listening – paying close attention to each institution and its community while also asking provocative questions. You must be sensitive to those details which are the most unique and compelling. My process is close to what the writer Linn Ullmann calls “artistic listening”.

“It’s a form of artistic listening, of understanding the consequences of the decisions you’ve made. If you are lucky enough to find a voice and place, there are real consequences to those choices. Together, they limit the possibilities of what can come next—which help point the way forward. Your role, then, is to not stick to your original idea—it is to be totally faithless to your idea. Instead, be faithful to your voice and place as you discover them, as well as to the consequences of what they entail.”

In a library context, that means capturing the initial spark of inspiration, then allowing that spark to guide you, instead of trying to corral or direct it.

Storytelling in a #library means capturing the initial spark of inspiration. @DrMattFinchCLICK TO TWEET

For example, starting with the word “Zombies!” and then thinking what it means to allow teens to play in the world of a zombie battle – guided not by your preconceptions or goals, but what they might want to do to steer the story of that battle for themselves.

Or a great library worker like Queensland’s Jacinta Sutton pondering how to bring old collections to life and hitting on the idea of a Faceswap app that lets you put yourself into historic digitized images.

Or even a public library vision which uses qualitative research and begins with recognizing the voices and creative contributions of library workers at every rank.

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