Recent Events

Future-Proofing Libraries: The Tuesday Keynote

Brendan Howley

Brendan Howley

Future Proofing Libraries

Future Proofing Libraries

Brendan Howley, Chief Strategy Officer, BothAnd, began with this quote from a library CEO who said that we want to understand and engage our communities.

Engaging with communities

He said that storytelling is recursive, which means involving the repeated application of a rule, i.e. a feedback loop. If you want to grow community networks through storytelling, you must build stories people want to share; recursiveness builds such stories. To scale shareable stories you need those that incite action. When people interact with stories in social media, they also share behaviors that are very valuable in understanding the community that is sharing the story. How we share stories tells us who we are; shared stories are intelligence tools.

What drives shareability? It stands on relevancy (why should I care about your library programming?), currency (is this story about your library important to me now?), and intensity (does this story “have legs”? How often am I going to hear this story and still listen?) Three questions drive story making: what?, so what?, and now what?  “Why?” drives story sharing. If your story answers the question why it will spread virally. Here are some winning strategies.

Winning strategies

Winning strategies for libraries

Every story we ever care about deals with transformation. Courage is the predicate for change; overcoming something to get where we want to go. The best stories are not one-offs; they are organic, interconnected, and non-linear.  Complex narratives mimic life, which is why storytelling is so powerful and entrancing. Libraries are one of the best brands around; people trust librarians.

The heart of great storytelling is conflict. It means risk, which incudes emotion. Sustainable stories keep telling themselves; they are either infectiously funny or so human, wise, and moving that we can’t help but share them. Your library is a community crossroads and we are marinating in stories.  Make heroes of your cardholders, visitors, and community partners, and your social media will explode. Your storytelling should be about your community, not you. If you do this, your community will do your marketing for you.

All safe havens will be subject to digital disruption.  Are you attracting people through social media to your website? Most libraries who have built apps are churning; people look at them and don’t come back. The Library Disruption Index (LDRI) is a strategic analysis tool that allows libraries to begin to see how their response to digital disruption affects their communities. The solution to disruption isn’t just better data; it is better storytelling derived from better data.

Content marketing is important because people do not buy advertising spin any more. They don’t care about you when they interact with social media; they care about themselves. Empathy is your goal; advocate for your audience and they will respond. Change the world and people will support your brand in droves. Libraries change the world every day.

Tell your story from a unique point of view. Publish consistently and don’t miss deadlines; use an editorial calendar. Go with the flow; good content now is worth far more than perfect content in a few days. Have a clearly identifiable brand champion, someone who owns the success of your library’s brand.

Our real problem was media design, not data interpretation. The Open Media Desk (OMD) builds stories that make people act. It is a proprietary branded content newsroom methodology that creates community networks, enhances collaboration, and helps design high relevance library programming. We are trying to create better stories that are faster and on target. The process is about failing as fast as possible, figure out what your audience wants, identify the more relevant story elements, and get media that works. You must listen to your audience and not make assumptions. The community becomes our communications publishing collaborator, sharing their library stories on our library’s media channels.

OMD objectives:

  • A highly targeted content marketing user-generated content process to design and implement high relevancy sustainable social media,
  • Documentation of learning improvements via confidence-based learning metrics. (In a short time, people become highly confident that they are teaching effectively.)


  • Personalized library storytelling tailored to the target community
  • Improvement in cardholders’ user experiences to drive engagement with library offerings
  • Integration of library brand communications across an entire state, yet still responsive to local news
  • Creation of a clear powerful digital brand
  • Agile team training.

A library experience goes far beyond your website or e book catalog interface. Measuring the relative success of a library’s evolving UX is the best test of future-proofing because UX is the barometer of how and why cardholders are behaving the way they are. OMD excavates stories that make real-time community experience possible. There is no real security in what is no longer meaningful and no magic storytelling formula to win the human heart. But there are ways of growing storytelling skills. You need courage to develop stories that will resonate with your audience.

Comments are closed.