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Why Public Libraries Should Embrace Brand Storytelling

booklet-426781_1920When you work in a library every day, the power of storytelling is clear. Thousands of people walk through our doors, and many will discover at least one story in the stacks that moves them. Great writers know how to evoke emotional responses from readers.

Everyone has a story to tell – not just authors or filmmakers, but brands too. The good news is that the ability to move people isn’t unique to great writers. Brand marketers understand that good storytelling is the key to getting consumers to feel emotionally invested in their brand.

That’s why brand marketers use the very same storytelling structure that great writers do. By incorporating storytelling techniques into marketing activities, the public library can motivate and inspire both advocates and visitors.

Let’s take a look at each of the major components of story and how they apply to building the public library brand.


Just as great novels have themes, so do brand stories. Themes are the common link between all marketing activities, helping to tie them together in a more meaningful way. When all your stories relate to one theme, your brand becomes more memorable.

How can you determine what your theme should be? Bring your staff together and brainstorm the answers to these questions:

  • What value does your library bring to the community?
  • What is your mission?
  • What impact do you have on each segment of your community?
  • What benefit do visitors gain from your library?

Structure & Plot.

The novel format consists of a single narrative arc, comprised of multiple chapters or stories. A brand is similar, except that its story is continuous and never-ending. Still, each story you tell should fit into your larger theme. These individual tales are comprised of three parts:

  • The beginning, which introduces your characters and setting (e.g. The teenager whose dream it is to attend college and who comes to the library every afternoon for homework help.)
  • The middle, which sets up the problem and supplies the tension (e.g. He needs a computer to complete his homework, but he doesn’t have one at home.)
  • The end, which provides a resolution (e.g. The library provides him with free access to a computer every afternoon, which allows him to get good grades and an acceptance to college.)


All great stories are rooted in great characters. They are so real and so relatable they could be our best friends. We root for them when adversity strikes.

The best brand storytellers are the ones who put their customers at the center of their stories. They are the heroes, not the brand. When prospective library visitors or advocates see themselves in other people’s stories – when they share the same problems and issues – they will find it easier to relate.

In addition, a story’s hero is always transformed by the action. This is critical to the success of telling a brand story because it shows how customers benefit from library services. For example, to promote your resources for job seekers, tell a story about a successful job search. This both emphasizes the library user as hero and reinforces what the library can do for the community.


Remember that a story is versatile and can be told through a variety of media. It’s not limited to the written word. In fact, younger audiences tend to gravitate more to visual content, so embrace video, images and audio when telling your story.

Storytelling, as we know, is an art. But it’s not simply for great writers. When you put story at the center of your marketing activities, you’ll engage a larger audience and build loyal fans.


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