2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday June 15, 2021

Updated on Tuesday June 15, 2021

portrait of Cristina Roiu

Cristina Roiu

Head of International Marketing Unit , The Romanian Academy Library

IFLA manual brings together storytelling, impact and advocacy for Sustainable Development Goals

As part of our recent focus on digital storytelling, we have been hearing from our Task Force on Europeana as a ‘powerful platform for storytelling’. One of the examples that the Task Force came across during its research was a Digital Storytelling Manual from IFLA - the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Task Force member Cristina Roiu talks to Kristīne Pabērza Ramiresa, Member Engagement Officer for IFLA, about the manual.

Kristīne Pabērza Ramiresa looks at a computer
Title: Generation Code at the European Parliament
Date: 2017
Institution: Public Libraries 2030

Why did you feel there was a need to develop a storytelling manual? 

In 2017, IFLA started to explore challenges and opportunities for the library field around the world through its Global Vision discussion, bringing together more than 30,000 librarians from all continents to discuss actions to meet future challenges and make use of opportunities. Key findings from this work sparked the idea about some kind of a resource supporting storytelling.

For example, the Global Vision conversation revealed that we need to understand our community needs better and design services which have a measurable impact on people’s lives. We also need to ensure stakeholders understand our value and impact, and we believe that making a stronger case for the ability of libraries to provide value will build recognition and support among decision-makers. And we need more and better advocates at all levels who not only understand the need for advocacy in improving perceptions but have the capacity and skills to ultimately achieve their advocacy goals.

At the same time, IFLA ran its International Advocacy Programme (IAP), a capacity-building programme designed to promote and support the role libraries can play in achieving the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Together, these two initiatives – the results of our Global Vision and our International Advocacy Programme - informed and inspired both the creation of space for SDG Stories on the Library Map of the World (LMW) and the development of the SDG Storytelling Manual – a guide for librarians and library advocates to support them in their advocacy efforts.

Kristine Paberza-Ramiresa
Title: Kristine Paberza-Ramiresa
Date: 2017
Institution: Kristine Paberza-Ramiresa (personal archive)
Kristine Paberza-Ramiresa

 Could you give us a few details about how you put it together? 

The Manual is a product of collaboration and co-creation. The LMW team worked with the team of the IAP Programme and a group of Associates of IFLA’s International Leaders Programme (ILP).

I led a group of co-authors who each brought their unique experience and expertise. These ranged from measurement and impact evaluation, dealing with pictures and videos for digital stories, copyright and licensing, to community engagement and advocacy. We were a really diverse group of people coming from different countries including Argentina, China, Colombia, Egypt, Latvia, Philippines, Senegal, Serbia, Mexico, and the United States of America.

The Manual needed to be a practical help guide containing tips and useful information. We wanted to keep it simple, not too long, but at the same time provide guidance through the most important parts. We included links to further information online, or to easy-to-use digital tools. The structure for storytelling that we offer can be used for any type of storytelling but it becomes even more important when it is SDG storytelling for the LMW because we want to make sure we are able to back up our story with some impact evidence.

What are your top tips for successful storytelling?

First, include impact planning and data collection from the beginning of your activity, project or programme. If you have defined what you want to achieve, it will be easy to collect data on that. And consequently, you will have data and evidence not only for storytelling and advocacy but for your future project planning and management. Crucially, in our SDG stories, we want to switch focus from libraries and what we do to why and how we do it, and what change it brings to people’s lives, communities, and development, or in other words, what is our impact?

Second, do not forget to take good pictures or make a video. Visual material brings the whole story to life. Articles with an image once every 75-100 words get double the number of social media shares than articles with fewer images (see page 14 of the Manual).

Third, keep track of copyright and licensing of your visual material. Sometimes I deal with cases when it is hard to find out who the author of a photograph is and consequently, we cannot start the conversation about the licence or ultimately use some very nice visual elements which would add to the story.

When a story is published, our communications team create a short video - but we can only do this if we have good pictures with open licences (check out our SDG stories playlist on YouTube). 

Kristīne Pabērza Ramiresa holding sign saying together we create the future #iflaGlobalVision
Title: Kristīne Pabērza Ramiresa
Creator: Evgeni Hristov
Date: 2017
Kristīne Pabērza Ramiresa holding sign saying together we create the future #iflaGlobalVision

What response have you had from people using the storytelling manual since publication?

The Manual has been very well received by the library community. We actually ran out of printed copies very fast! However, even 30 pages, which is quite little for a topic like this, can sometimes be too much. So we created a one-page version of the most important things- the SDG Storytelling Flowchart (available in seven languages). By answering yes or no to the flowchart questions, people can see if their story is suitable for the LMW and check if it has all the required elements. 

We learned that even if everything is well-explained in the Manual, it is very challenging for many people to keep their story short and to talk about important things – our impact, our communities and people, rather than simply about libraries. So, instead of asking our contributors to write the story and fit within our word limits etc.,we decided to draft the story narratives ourselves, based on the information received from contributors. Now, everyone engaged is happier – contributors spend less time in preparation and submission of stories, and the LMW team can get more stories online faster. We now have close to 50 stories to explore and inspire you, all showcasing the impact libraries have in achieving SDG .

Thank you Kristine, for sharing your experience with us! You can download the manual from IFLA’s website, and find more information on measuring impact for digital cultural heritage Europeana's Impact page.