Book Review: Made to Stick – Librarians must read!

I feel fortunate that my library participates in a downloadable audiobook project called Listen Alaska through Overdrive, inc. It’s given me the chance to do try out books on my mp3 player that I might not have picked up to read but turned out to be great books.

Such is the case with Made to stick : why some ideas some ideas survive and others die by Chip and Dan Heath. I downloaded the audiobook version from Listen Alaska, and was so impressed I ordered the paper copy for my library. If you’re a librarian, you should too. Then read it. You can read the introduction right now by going to the companion web site at

Why do I think this book should be read by every librarian? Because the authors carefully lay out the elements needed to convey a compelling message and provide many examples of messages that work. Many well-intentioned people tell us librarians to “tell our stories.” The Heath brothers show us HOW to tell our stories. Consultants tell libraries it is important to have a mission statement, but the Heath brothers demonstrate how to generate a “core value” that can actually guide decision making.

The authors start the book with a common and unforgettable urban legend and dissect the “stickiness” aspects that keep the legend in circulation. They suggest that every successful message has characteristics that spell out SUCES:


The rest of the book examines how to make messages simple, unexpected, credible, have emotional content and how to tell stories. This is both simpler and more complex than it sounds. The books messages are made clearer by frequent “message clinics” where the brothers provide several ways of getting a message across and let the choose the one that seems most compelling.

Authors Chip and Dan Heath are the first to tell you that this isn’t a cookbook. It’s not a matter of following SUCES and having success every time. But they and I say that if you do put these elements into your messages, they’ll have a fighting chance of being heard and remembered.

One of the things I regret about Library school is that there were no courses in communication or public relations. This is a particularly glaring deficiency because as a group librarians tend to be introverted and self-effacing. We don’t have much experience in getting our stories out and tend to lapse into jargon and statistics, two things guaranteed to lose our audience. Made to Stick could help turn that around and make us effective advocates for our libraries and other causes in our lives.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Made to Stick – Librarians must read!

  1. Fritz says:

    Was this book written from an American perspective?

  2. Daniel says:

    It was written by two American researchers, but they look at other cultures from time to time. For example, they have a section on proverbs that includes variations on “sour grapes” from Greece to China.

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