IMLS Libraries Project, Projects, Storytelling Boxes

Our first national cohort: 20+ cities, towns and places started this fall

Last month we launched our first national training program for libraries! More than 60 applied over the summer, and we selected about a third to participate.

From Manchester, Vermont, to Kealakekua, Hawaii, our fall cohort of libraries are creating outdoor games and interactive stories with their local communities. The program is part of a series called “Engaging Beyond Our Walls,” supported by the IMLS.

What are they making? One is creating an escape room for a real train caboose that is housed next to the library. Another is creating a photo scavenger hunt that responds to the historic pictures that residents send in. A third is turning a storywalk into a multimedia experience for walking around town, opening eyes to hidden architecture. Others include projects with community cookbooks, “summer passports” for reading that tied to physical locations, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the town fire company, and augmenting a popular hiking trail with information about local indigenous groups.

Logos from participating libraries include:

Several libraries will challenge residents to “make their own” experiences by offering workshops and training patrons on the Hive Mechanic tool that we created, which centers on text messaging, voice trees, and connecting to city data streams.

Another group of libraries will make physical “storytelling boxes,” often using library makerspaces. Each box will tell a different story, bringing together physical making and STEM skills with history and community-based storytelling.

Check back later this fall for photographs of early playtests, and emerging models for what libraries can build. Meanwhile, our research continues into how libraries can become “nodes” for community storytelling, and how we can democratize the design process so that ordinary people and community groups can directly make their own interactive stories and outdoor games.

Our next application window will open in 2023, probably around January. Sign up to be informed when the application opens.

Our Participants

Voice/Texting Group


Umatilla Public Library


Oley Valley Community Library


Town of Ulster Public Library


W.J. Niederkorn Library

Spooner Memorial Library

Bayfield Carnegie Library

Shell Lake Public Library


Marshall Public Library


Prescott Valley Public Library

Glendale Public Library


Los Angeles Public Library – Robertson Branch

Storytelling Box Group


Manchester Public Library


Willimantic Public Library


Montclair Public Library


Bethlehem Area Public Library

Tyrone Snyder Public Library


Sullivan County Public Library – Colonial Heights Branch


Kealakekua Public Library