Our CEO, Troy Myers and Community Engagement Manager, Christina Pottie continue on their conversation with Justin Moore from Codex. This time they focus on storytelling, technology, and how libraries can be the hub for community driven news and history.
Justin: What’s the libraries role with storytelling?
Troy: What we do first and foremost, here at the library, is storytelling. It’s remarkable to see a bunch of frazzled and excited kids - some as young as 18 months. Then someone sits down to read them a story and all of these kids just fall in line. They just sit still and listen to the story. It is my personal feeling that storytelling is coded into our DNA and it’s going to be there forever. That’s another reason why libraries are so important. It goes back to when we were living in the woods, and as soon as someone started telling a story it would bring us together, gathered around a fire.
The Lit festival shows this as well. You get a bunch of busy adults together and when you get a storyteller like Romeo Dallaire in the room, you can hear a pin drop during his stories. Everyone is just captivated.
Storytelling helps you connect with the audience and create a true social network. Libraries can do that at a lower level starting with the kids. It leads to all this positive energy, which is a powerful thing.
Justin: I’m curious about local news. I read an article about small towns and news. It was about how local news is not easily accessible and that it’s really not easy for community members to get it because most news is national news. So this one guy, he’s a librarian, decided to use his library as the local news source. He worked with some community members and his librarians - and built a local news blog and it really had me thinking. Troy, you and I toss around ideas, I saw this and thought, local news - something like Codex would be perfect for this. (Codex is an online archive and storytelling platform)
Troy: It’s funny you say that. I was at an east coast publisher’s conference, when I started talking to a local news guy, Vernon, who was saying exactly that: Libraries have become the conduit for local news. I asked Vernon if he would come in and energize a bunch of young and old people to be those reporters. Give them the tools of the trade, we give them the platform which is Codex, and then just let the community populate it. Let’s just take baby steps, we won’t do it weekly but we’ll start monthly, do some feature stories, some pictures, and he’ll train people.
Justin: That excites me. The whole idea behind getting that local content in there - high school kids and adults capturing local sporting events, adding pictures, and videos.
Troy: They don’t all have to be written word… it could be Colleen Jones with a selfie stick.
Justin: 100%, people are doing vlogs, holding the camera out like a selfie and talking into it all day long.
Troy: The value of the community newspaper is that you do the feature stories and community news that others won’t cover.
Justin: You’re not going to find that stuff anywhere.
Christina: Yes, the local sports team, they won’t get in there unless they win a provincial championship. If you win the local high school badminton championship, no one has those pictures.
Justin: Another thing that is on my mind is local history. That’s something that’s really important to you?
Troy: Yes it is.
Justin: It’s really important to us at Codex too. When you and I originally connected, it was about the Bridgewater Bulletin and now that’s online. It then grew into the Community Collection. Is there a vision for that? Where do you see that going?
Christina: Well I certainly would like to see some more community uptake. I think there needs to be some hand holding to get more community members involved. And I was just thinking, we need to use our own network. I’m a Girl Guide leader in Lunenburg, and the Girl Guide cabin here in Bridgewater is going to close. There is some amazing stuff in there that I think would be great to put in our Community Collection. There have been some, quite powerful, women who have come from Guides over the years. One lady I know, she is in her 90’s, talked about the Guide Cabin when she was a girl (over 80 years ago). They would go out behind the cabin into the woods and sit around the campfire. This is just coming to my mind now as we are talking. I would really love to see more community driven activity. As it continues, I think it will take on a life of its own.
Justin: I agree with that. I was really captivated by that story you mentioned about this 90 year old woman. I wonder how open she, or someone like her, would be to recording her stories. Because the stories she, and others like her, must have!
Christina: Oh yeah, and we can build video and audio content in Codex.
Justin: Exactly. I just think as a society we are losing stories. For you to have a chat with her and have those stories from 80 years ago recorded and preserved would be fascinating.
Justin to Christina: And you’ve had Tom from La Have River connect with you.
Christina: Yeah, Tom was the lead for the La Have River project on Community Collections. Now he’s working on something called the Giants of Lunenburg County. He’s invited community members to take pictures of trees when they are out and about and send them to him. I think it’s going to be a great compilation when it’s done.
Justin: It’s been our vision at Codex to allow community members to sign up and share on their own stories.
Troy: And I think a good way to start that is to allow for self-publishing. The timing is great, the writing group we have, has come up with a summer writing challenge - they are all writing novels.
Justin: Oh yeah, I read about this online.
Troy: Part of my vision with Community Collections is to be a community publisher. Someone can dust off the novel they have been working on, upload it into Codex and allow them to get some exposure. And you never know, there might be a real gem in there!
Christina: Yeah I mean it’s your choice; whether they read it or not, we give them the place to make it possible to publish.
Troy: When talking to our writers group, they said that an ability to publish through Codex with the library would actually be an incentive for them.
Justin: I think this type of use for Codex is a great opportunity. It means a lot to hear you say that your writing group sees this as an incentive to push to finish their novel.
Justin: Now Christina, you’ve been working with Codex the most. You did a great job presenting it to your community group when I was last here. Now what’s your take on it? How has it gone? How has it been interacting with the Codex team and the platform itself.
Christina: It’s been amazing. The only challenges I’ve had are with remembering how to do something because I’ve been away from it for a little while, but your team is great. Dale is always quick to respond and I never feel like I have a dumb question. You’ve released some online manuals and videos, and they are really helpful too. From a user/admin perspective I find it pretty easy to use.
Justin: That’s really good feedback for our development team. I wanted to end this interview off with hot topics. We talked a little bit about some local news and being an advocate for publishing. Is there anything else that I may not be aware of or things that folks may be interested in hearing about?
Christina: I just went to a conference and the key phrase that I picked up from there was ‘the library should be more like a kitchen, and less like a grocery store’. It’s much more about the relationship and less about the transaction. Building those relationships, discussing those books - that’s the big conversation taking place in libraries.
Troy: I think we have already covered what I think is hot right now. The community information, the news, and history. The library is becoming the default location for news. Newspapers are starting to disappear, local radio is struggling. As time goes on we need to maintain that level of trust and then the community will come to us for that news. I think that Codex can really help us with that, to get the word out and collect the history. I think every library needs to identify who they are responsible for and then aim to be that place where people come for information. The community will know that they are getting the real deal. We need to continue to invite people and that’s where the digital storytelling really helps us to reach out to people and community. It’s the value of coming in and hearing stories in real time.
Justin: It is the goal of Codex to help your library, and others out there, to engage their community and inspire them to come through the front doors.
The one argument I get is, if we’re big on sharing everything digitally, then why would community members come in? But that’s not the point, the point is you might meet some people digitally. They get the awareness, and a sense of who you are. They hear stories from you, Troy or Christina, about the great events taking place, and hopefully they will say “Geeze I’m missing out, I have to get in those doors.” That’s what we at Codex want to have happen
Troy: Well exactly, it’s kind of a faulty argument on their part, to say “Well, if we do this then why would we do that”. It reminds me of being a volunteer in sport and the big debate has always been do we invest in the high performing athletes and not the kids just kicking the ball around? It took me 10 years to realize we need to do both at the same time. You need to build your base and focus on the high performers. You need you have the high performers inspiring the young athletes and you need your best coaches teaching the young ones at an early age.
I would use the same argument with what we do. We need to do that cutting edge digital stuff, reaching out to the world but we also need to do your core businesses the storytelling really well.
Troy: It’s like with the printed book. Just three years ago all the talk was about the eBook and how print will go away, but now you don’t hear that. The digital has driven more people to the printed book. The digital will always stay but so too will the printed book.
Codex has helped us to create a digital Community Collection environment that will allow us to easily highlight many topics throughout our community. It is our vision that this digital environment will evolve with us and remain a safe and accessible place where aspiring authors can self-publish, community members can share and everyone can discover. Strong digital interaction and support will only strengthen our ability to inspire community engagement and real connections.
Troy Myers -Chief Librarian, South Shore Public Libraries
Christina Pottie - Community Engagement Manager, South Shore Public Libraries
** Go back to part one of this interview right HERE **