Digital storytelling at the inside out library

The State Library of South Australia is using digital storytelling to promote its collections.

Libraries around the world are facing similar challenges – how to ensure their services and staff provide relevant services in the digital age.

At the State Library of South Australia librarians and large-scale projection artists are collaborating on a project to illuminate stories from their bequest collections on the exterior walls of the building.

The project, known as the Story Wall, is the first permanent projection art installation curated by a library in Australia.  The librarians have embraced their new roles as digital storytellers, working with the artists to curate the exhibition.  The librarians not only undertook the initial research required in pulling together the stories from the collection, but recorded many of the narratives that can heard from the street.  Their knowledge of and insights on the collections were critical in the collaboration, according to lead projection artist and founder of Illuminart Cindi Drennan:

"Through our conversations with the Library we were aware of things like The Treasures Wall and SA Memory and different exhibitions they had presented over time, and potential collection items that could be developed further, things like early colonial toys and donated car tyres from the Adelaide Grand Prix.

"But of course within the Library there are curators and librarians who have a deep understanding of the collections that are not of public knowledge. And we wanted to know what their ideas were, and talk about what it was going to mean for the public to hear or have those stories told in a new form."

As a result, the projections that play on the sandstone walls of the Library from sunset to midnight throughout summer, have deep roots in South Australia's history.

In the new year, the Library is looking to go one step further in breaking down the barriers in digital literacy, integrating social media and co-creating content for the Story Wall with the help of the community to co-create stories for the wall.

According to Alan Smith, the director of the State Library of Australia:

"The technology itself is only the enabler, and when it's properly handled, it's deeply, deeply democratic.  All sorts of people can create, publish, share...  the role of the Library is to be a custodian of knowledge, but more importantly it is to be enablers, and to help citizens embrace digital literacy."