The story matrix



I am working toward a way to explain the fundamental role that narrative plays in the lives of people who are served by community public libraries. I believe that the notion of “stories” is a more productive frame than “information” or “knowledge” for exploring the business(es) community public libraries are in. [1]

I am developing a four-square matrix as a concise explanation of what I am thinking through: The Story Matrix. The vertical axis displays a progression of storied tool types, artifacts that help us make narratives. The horizontal axis displays a progression of storied event types, the lived actions and experiences through which we make narrative meaning. [2]

I use the awkward locutions “storied tool types” and “storied event types” to emphasize that narrative meaning is not contained “in” tools—documents, conversations, meeting rooms, presentations, computers—or “in” events—reading, writing, speaking, listening, processing, thinking. Meaning is not “contained” in anything at all. Each time we read, write, speak, listen, process, or think with the help of a narrative tool, we make narrative meaning anew, as a function of the immediate relationships among tools, events, and minds. We “story” tools and events, we do not consume stories that are somehow pre-installed. [3] 

People are not primarily patrons, users, or customers of a community public library, they are primarily “makers” in a storied environment in which the community public library occupies a small but keystone niche. Hereafter, I will refer to all the people served by a community public library—directly, indirectly, or potentially—as makers. [4]

My goal with the Story Matrix is to create an instrument with which to evaluate the narrative characteristics and impact of community public library missions, service responses, policies, practices, and day-to-day decisions.  I intend the matrix to be of practical use to working librarians. How will our decisions support the makers we serve as they create their personal and/or community stories? From the generalities of long-range planning to the specifics of selecting a single document or implementing a one-time program, what types of storied tools are we considering and what types of storied events will they engender? Where can we place them on the axes of tools and events? What does it matter where they are placed? [5]

This has been a long-term project for me, and I’m only now beginning to broach it directly. I will be working on the details of the matrix in later posts, including the terms whose functional definitions in the context of the matrix may not be immediately clear. Such as “tools” and “events.” And why I say “community public library” instead of  “public library” or even just “library.” [6]

Eventually I will combine posts related to the Story Matrix into a relatively static set of pages on this blog. This skeletal beginning is simply to spark your thoughts, comments and concerns (and my own) as I think this through, before I go down too many wrong paths. If you are interested in helping me stay on the straight and narrow, please do comment. [7]

I have created a mailing list for this project in gmail: StoryMakers. Send me your email through the Contact page if you would like to be included (right tab above). [8]


January 5, 2016. My WordPress comments app has given up the ghost, so you will need to submit your comments through the Contact page also. Sorry for the inconvenience.


January 6, 2016. Changed “people who use community public libraries” to “people who are served by community public libraries” in [1]. Added paragraph numbers [x].

January 14, 2016. Added “Meaning” to the center of the graphic.

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