Telling Stories of Impact

Toolkit | Tutorials | Ethical guidelines | Telling stories of impact | Takedown policies | Use and reuse | Related resources | Glossary


The need to communicate the value of digital libraries and digitized content is a formidable challenge for practitioners. The roadblocks are many. The profession lacks agreed-upon standards, mechanisms for discovering user trends, and methods to translate typical metrics into outputs that appeal to stakeholders.

Assessing digital content use/reuse can be one helpful approach to developing stories of impact. An assessment can foster a deeper understanding of the ways that users engage with content and can generate metrics that practitioners can incorporate into reports to stakeholders.

Taking a faceted approach

Telling stories of impact requires practitioners to assemble key pieces of information that will build the story’s composition, assist with facilitating the process, and address the story’s audience. This page documents facets, or categories of information frequently found in impact reporting.

The following table highlights important storytelling facets, including definitions and examples.

Storytelling FacetDefinitionExamples

All encompassing individuals involved in telling a story

  • Who tells the story? 
  • Who is responsible for the story?
  • Who is the story about? 
  • Who are you telling the story to?

Internal stakeholders:  

  • librarians 
  • archivists 
  • curators
  • IT staff
  • repository managers

External stakeholders:

  • academic researchers
  • communities
  • K-12
  • general public 
  • grant agencies 
  • peer institutions 
WhatThe specific data points used to construct the story being told, done through data collection and analysis
  • anecdotes
  • statistics (including usage)
  • content analysis
  • results of data collection and analysis
When The length of time and frequency needed to collect data and tell the story
  • longitudinal study
  • snapshot(/anecdote?)
WhereThe context (e.g., institutional, cultural, or community) where the assessment took place.
  • academic institutions 
  • public libraries
  • community archives
  • indigenous communities
HowThe approach, format, or style used to articulate the story
  • formal report/publication
  • web content/blogs/social media
  • “elevator pitch”
  • infographics
  • flyers
  • charts and visualizations
WhyThe purpose, intention, or ultimate goal for developing or distributing a story about impact
  • articulate impact in an annual report
  • communicating value to a board or governing body
  • support application for a grant
  • promoting the use/reuse of materials to local community

Responding to the various storytelling facets will provide practitioners with the kinds of data and outputs available to craft narratives that can reach their intended audience(s). Practitioners using this model should note that not all facets may be of relevance to their specific needs.

Examples from projects and scholarship

With the storytelling facets collected, practitioners can craft narratives and share outputs in a variety of ways, depending on audience behavior and institutional goals. Several examples from real-world projects and scholarship highlight the diversity of impact reporting, from compiling meaningful anecdotes and analytics, and composing feature-length newsprint stories to conceptual frameworks for addressing needs of particular audiences, including users from underrepresented populations.

  • Compiling digital collections impact data: Duke University Libraries’ content uses/reuses via analytics
    Duke University Libraries’ blog post “The Elastic Ruler: Measuring Scholarly Use of Digital Collections” unpacks the process of collecting data, via web and citation analytics, to understand instances of content use/reuse. The blog post contains examples of use/reuse in and out of the academy.

    Aery, Sean. “The Elastic Ruler: Measuring Scholarly Use of Digital Collections. BITSTREAMS: Notes from the digital projects team“. Duke University Libraries (2015)

  • Examples of digital collections impact stories: Europeana Reuse: Be Inspired
    The Europeana Foundation has collected ways that educators, researchers, and the general public have engaged with content from the Europeana digital library. The website includes highlights of various types of reuse, feature-length stories on the critical role that digital content played in helping audiences achieve their goals, and examples of reuse from a wide range of audience types.


    Europeana Foundation. “Europeana Reuse: Be Inspired”. Europeana Pro
  • Examples of institutional repository impact stories: DASH’s Your Story Matters
    Harvard University Library’s DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) collects user anecdotes that document the various ways the repository benefits users from across the world. The brief entries show a wide diversity of users and reuses, with an emphasis on the impact of open access to scholarship produced by those at Harvard.

    Your Story Matters.” Office for Scholarly Communication, Harvard University Library.

  • Examples of collections impact stories: UNT Libraries’ Three Questions
    The University of North Texas (UNT) Libraries has compiled user stories on how unique collections (including digital content) stewarded by UNT have impacted the teaching, learning and research efforts of those engaging with the content. The website contains numerous anecdotes on the benefits that resources like the Portal to Texas History has brought to those engaging in scholarship and curriculum/pedagogical development.

    University Libraries. “Three Questions: Unique Collections at UNT Libraries”. University of North Texas.

  • Assessment framework: Impact of Digitized Ethnographic Archives
    The authors provide a framework for documenting and demonstrating the impact of digital collections materials (specifically “Digitized Ethnographic Archives”) using six topical areas of impact, including knowledge, professional discourse, attitudes, institutional capacity, policy and relationships.

    Punzalan, Ricardo L., Diana E. Marsh, and Kyla Cools. “Beyond Clicks, Likes, and Downloads: Identifying Meaningful Impacts for Digitized Ethnographic Archives.” Archivaria 84 (2017): 61-102. 

Cite this page

Content Reuse Working Group, DLF Assessment Interest Group. (2023). Telling Stories of Impact. Digital Content Reuse Assessment Framework Toolkit (D-CRAFT); Council on Library & Information. 

Telling Stories of Impact: Tutorial
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