Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Running long before I learned to crawl

I am enamored with stories and with the storytelling process. I was an English major with a creative writing concentration, so I'm as enamored with my own stories as I am with the stories of other people. My love of storytelling is at least of part of what compels me to blog. I like taking an idea I've been wrestling with and shaping it on the page. And writing helps me interrogate my ideas like nothing else.

This short piece from the Psychology Today blog talks about why we find stories so compelling. As humans, we crave certainty. With their narrative arcs, stories help us make sense of the world. They are how we're wired. Most importantly, stories bring us closer to other people because they evoke emotions. My favorite part of that Psychology Today piece:

Through stories we share passions, sadness, hardships and joys. We share meaning and purpose. Stories are the common ground that allows people to communicate, overcoming our defenses and our differences. Stories allow us to understand ourselves better and to find our commonality with others.
Stories are the vehicle through we which we share our lived experience. And they help us build community by finding common ground with people who are nothing like us.

The other useful part of storytelling is that stories have the power to change the attitudes and behaviors of the people who hear them. This article from the Harvard Business Review lays out the science behind successful storytelling as well as why it is effective as an advertising tool. Our brains react to the narrative arc in a certain way. And advertisers use that to their advantage. A good advertising campaign stays with us long after the ads stop airing.

Think about the power of compelling stories when it comes to selling your library and its services. All parts of the library collect statistics. We metadata creators are especially good at collecting statistics about the number of items we've described in any given span of time. And yes, those statistics on their own tell a story. But I would argue that an anecdote about the rise in usage of a hidden collection after is cataloged is more compelling than a spreadsheet with the total number of items cataloged in the last fiscal year when it comes to selling administrators on the value of metadata creation to the library. More's the better if you can couple a compelling anecdote with statistics to support your claim.

Last Tuesday I gave you my elevator pitch for the value of metadata. I think that elevator pitches are tiny stories. The require you to distill the entirety of your work into a paragraph's worth of information. And, if you're really disciplined, you can force yourself to leave out all of the jargoned language that you use in your specialty.

The next time you have a point to make or data to convey, think about how you can mold your idea or your data into a compelling story.  You'll make a stronger connection with your audience and they will think about your ideas long after you are done conveying them.

Stay positive,

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