Posted by: | September 23, 2019

The Power of Stories to Connect Us

Something that has been on my mind recently is the power of stories to connect us. Stories have the ability to make us laugh and cry; they remind us of what it is to be human. Stories can give voice to the marginalized and bring communities together by fostering understanding and inclusion. Sharing and telling our stories helps us create a kinder, more just world and libraries can play a huge role in that. In fact, many libraries already are. For instance, Stephens (2017) shares how one library in South Australia has added a “grown up” story time hosted by librarians where adults can come and enjoy mulled wine or hot buttered rum “in a social atmosphere to listen to and reflect on narratives.” Other examples are the live storytelling events put on by the Mill Valley Public Library in California and the University of Colorado Kraemer Family Library’s Intergenerational Storytelling Contest. However, on the subject of stories as a means of  connection, I was particularly inspired by Christian Lauersen’s speech delivered at the UX in Libraries Conference in 2018.

In his address, Lauersen (2018) discusses the importance of breaking down the biases and stories that we make up about cultures and peoples that we aren’t familiar with; those that we consider “other”. He shares the story of how he used to hide his wages in his sock every payday for fear of being robbed in the poor, ethnic neighborhood where he lived. What’s powerful about this story is that Lauersen acknowledges that he had never been given reason from personal experience to fear the immigrants in his neighborhood, but his biases about them were there nonetheless. We all have these biases. We inherit them from family, friends, and the media. In his remarks, Lauersen argues that it is the responsibility of libraries “to provide open and inclusive spaces and systems.”  He invites to examine our own prejudices and to do the work to rid ourselves of those preconceptions as much as possible. Lauersen admonishes libraries to make diversity and inclusion a priority and he invites them to involve and empower the diverse voices in their communities.

One pathway to empowering community voices that Lauersen mentions is the Human Library. The Human Library is made up of human books that can be loaned out to readers. The human books in a given library could be former drug addicts, ex-cons, those who are gender fluid, or former sex workers; people who have been marginalized or discriminated against. Although the founders of the Human Library movement were not librarians, many libraries worldwide, both academic and public, have hosted these human book events. The mission of the Human Library is to change people’s preconceptions and breakdown prejudices “one conversation at a time (humanlibrary.org, 2019).” The promise that events like the Human Library present are what I believe the hyperlinked library is all about: connection, understanding, compassion, and heart.

Reference

Stephens, M. (2017, October 18). Telling stories. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=telling-stories-office-hours

Lauersen, C. (2018, June 7) Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/


Responses

  1. Hi Christine,

    I think that’s beautiful because stories have so much more power in them because of the emotions and experiences that we can share about and learn from using stories as a medium. I also loved learning about the grown up story times that you shared in your post because story times can be fun for all ages. I think it’s incredibly wonderful that more and more libraries are incorporating live storytimes into their programs and services. I think everyone should be able to come to them. I’m particularly interested in the intergenerational storytelling contest. It sounds like it did incredibly well and I think people would be interested in it.

    I also think it’s a good point that Lauerson brought up about stories. Stories are a way that we learn and pass down lessons from history and from other people. Yes we aren’t familiar with them and yes we all come from different backgrounds, but we shouldn’t let bias hold us back from the experience. So too should libraries. Libraries should be a safe space for everyone to be welcomed no matter their personal background. Their stories can be a learning point for us all.

    I loved seeing how libraries are growing more and more diverse and I think that it is because of that, that we have opportunities to learn.

    I love the Human Library movement because 1. the founders don’t necessarily need to be librarians and 2. I loved learning the different groups of people that are being welcomed and allowed to read and learn from each other.

    I really hope that a Human Library comes by my hometown some day as we can begin sparking conversation, and changing any prior perceptions. I also loved your statement that a hyperlinked library is about “connection, understanding, compassion, and heart” because it is and it’s about bringing people together to learn from each other.

    • Hi Tiffany,

      Thank you for your comments! I first learned about the Human Library a couple of years ago and it has intrigued me ever since. I hope you get to experience it. Check out the Events page at humanlibrary.org often to see where they are being held. Or who knows, maybe you will feel inspired to have your library host one.

      • Hi Christine,

        That’s wonderful! I’ll have to look into that! I am hopeful that we will! Our drag queen storytime had a wonderful success today so I think we might try to do that in the future.

  2. Oh my!

    “The promise that events like the Human Library present are what I believe the hyperlinked library is all about: connection, understanding, compassion, and heart.”

    Yes! At next Library 2019, I was part of a session called “The Power of Stories” and we covered many of Christian’s points as well. Then I got to meet him and do a tour of his library!

    I am thrilled that using stories and sharing stories…and gathering stories in libraries today promotes inclusion. Everyone can dance! 🙂

    • It’s so cool that you got to tour Lauersens’ library!

      I’m also thrilled that stories in libraries promotes inclusion. Drag Queen Story Hour comes to mind here. Although, I really wish my library had something like adult storytime. Or perhaps Drag Queen Story Hour for adults. That could be fun – especially if hot toddies were served. It’s so interesting to hear people’s stories.

      Currently, PBS has something called Stories from the Stage. I’ve yet to catch an entire show, but it’s really interesting.


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