2. The Case for Digital Storytelling in Libraries

Storytelling is often a standard component of a public library’s programming efforts, most commonly for children and sometimes for adults. Digital storytelling takes traditional storytelling one step further, adding the dimension of technology along with the affordances that these technologies provide. “With the use of social networking, tools such as video-sharing sites, blogs, and other online forums, stories have the ability to travel and transform as never before” (Czarnecki, 2009, p. 7). Given that libraries often have an interest in investing in technology for the community and that storytelling is an integral part of library programming, digital storytelling in the library setting is a natural match.

There are many ways that libraries can engage in the digital storytelling process, from showcasing community stories to facilitating the creation process. Because digital stories are not limited by topic, the possibilities are endless. Kelly Czarnecki, the Technology Education Librarian at ImaginOn for the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, provides the following reasons why libraries should be interested in digital storytelling:

  1. Digital storytelling involves multiple disciplines, including literary skills (such as putting together a coherent story), legal issues (understanding copyright), and information technology, giving libraries an opportunity to promote the knowledge surrounding these topics.
  2. Digital storytelling helps build skills that are relevant to the 21st century, from reading and writing to computer skills. Additionally, the construction of a digital story is a creative process that requires the use of the imagination and because it involves telling a story, it also develops communication skills.
  3. Digital storytelling provides a way for the collective memory of communities to be shared. History and culture, and their inherent beliefs and values, can be expressed through a digital medium and shared through social media. As community spaces, it is important that libraries facilitate the exchange of community knowledge through engagement with their patrons, and digital stories are perfect for developing such conversations.

When Deert Van Den Boogaard, the project manager for DOK Library Conference Center’s “Images of the Future” in Delft, the Netherlands, was asked why something like digital storytelling belongs in a library, he answered, “We see the library as a place where all the knowledge, information, culture and stories that exist in a city should get together. A library offers a lot, but rarely material from the users of the library” (Czarnecki, 2009). This attitude expresses a shift from libraries being a provider of materials to a facilitator for the creation of materials that come from users. The Agora: Storyboard of Your Life project at DOK involves ordinary people coming in to the library and interacting with an exhibition that’s projected on a large screen. People are allowed to add their own stories, video, text, photographs, and more, allowing the exhibition to grow through community participation (Czardnecki, 2009).

Below is a video about the DOK Library Conference Center and the Agora project.

In many ways, digital storytelling embodies what Library 2.0 is all about: a library that is user-centred, “inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want” (Casey & Savastinuk, 2006, para. 3). A digital story is dynamic. It is not something that is created and then left on the shelf, but instead is shared with the rest of the community and beyond.

Many libraries, both public and academic, have embraced digital storytelling. Some libraries use it for educational purposes, developing technology literacy, while others, like the DOK’s Agora project, have used it to engage the community. No matter where and how it is being employed, digital storytelling is a truly 21st century way that libraries can engage with their communities.


Boekesteijn, E. (2010). What’s your story?: Dutch library DOK’s new cutting-edge community tech projects. Library Journal (online). Retrieved August 16, 2011, from http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/home/886170-264/whats_your_story_dutch_library.html.csp

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2006). Library 2.0: Service for the next-generation library. Library Journal (online). Retrieved August 16, 2011, from http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6365200.html

Czarnecki, K. (2009). Digital storytelling in practice. Library Technology Reports, 45(7), 5-8. Retrieved August 16, 2011, from EBSCOhost.

Educause Learning Initiative. (2007). 7 things you should know about digital storytelling. Retrieved August 16, 2011, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7021.pdf