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Librarian Relations Consultant
Céad míle fáilte romhat!
This month, March, hosts one of my favorite holidays, St. Patrick’s Day. If you have met me in person, you can deduce from the red hair, freckles and gift of gab, that I have Irish blood within my veins. For me, St. Patrick’s Day is a family celebration highlighted by parades and parties, featuring laughter, dancing and singing. A trait that runs strong in my family, and is part of the Irish landscape, is storytelling. It was fortuitous that I was able to take a storytelling class while I was at graduate school. The class gave me a scholarly reason to study and explore the Irish myths and stories of my heritage. I find it inspiring and energizing to combine my natural Irish ability with my professional study.
It is with interest that I have noticed the headlines about the use of storytelling as a business tool in recent years. When I think of storytelling I immediately picture my Uncle Dick at a family gathering entertaining us with the story of how he thought his high school cheerleaders were cheering in Latin, or my sister, Anne, who hates to travel, recounting her trip to Mexico, and both times resulted in me bent over in laughter! How can this be translated to the business world?
To dig a little deeper, I used Google and searched “storytelling as a business tool.” Some of the hits included “Storytelling to change organizations,” “Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool Workshop,” and “Storytelling makes a comeback in an unlikely place.” In reading the articles, the reason behind the vaunt of storytelling is the onslaught of communication technology. We shut down when we have an overabundance of incoming messages, and we are not able to prioritize the importance of various pieces of information in a sea of bullet points. Storytelling puts the messages into a context that is memorable and effortlessly communicates the priorities of the messages from person to person.
I also believe the use of storytelling is rising because of the overuse of business speak. Storytelling is more natural, more real, than delivering an elevator speech or a sales pitch. On a certain level I know I am resistant to embrace some of the jargon of the business world, even though I know it would help me in my work. But when I reframe it in language that I am comfortable with and in a construct I can understand, than I realize I am open to reconsidering those business practices. Storytelling does that for me!
When people ask me what I do, it would be easy to lapse into jargon and use words, phrases and acronyms that are only relevant to other people within LexisNexis. Instead, I now answer with a story of a program I presented, or assistance I provided, that exemplifies what I do. Instead of eyes glazing over, I now get enthusiastic responses, and some people even want to know more about my work. The power of storytelling is persuasive!
Doug Lipman, storyteller, “ believes that knowledge of narrative, oral language, imagery, and the relationships involved in storytelling can assist companies in four important "C’s":
- Clarification of intention, and
- Creation of shared vision.”
Based on my own experience in using storytelling as a business tool, I agree with his insight.
During this month of March, give some thought to telling the story of your library, and your work as a librarian. Tap into the wealth of storytelling resources that exist, recommendations from ALA, http://www.ala.org/ala/alsc/alscresources/forlibrarians/StorytellingResources.htm, and National Storytelling Network, http://www.storynet.org/.
Contact a colleague in the Children’s Department of your local library for tips and suggestions. They have the expertise when it comes to storytelling! Think about the stories and storytellers that make an impression of you. My Uncle Dick has a booming voice, my sister, Anne, has a wicked sense of humor. Both of them use these gifts when telling stories, and that is partly what makes their stories memorable.
National Library Week occurs next month. Can your story be ready by then? Have a version of it ready to tell the next time someone asks what you do, or when you have a few minutes in the elevator with a person who approves your budget. What other opportunities will present themselves in the coming months? Having a story to tell, and different version, full-length, abbreviated, colorful, condensed, will be invaluable to you!
And next time you see me at a conference or a meeting, ask for a story! I promise I will have one that is sure to please!
Slán a fhágáil ag duine!
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