“Libraries should keep stories, share stories, and make stories.”
–Erik Boekesteijn, Doklab consultant
I’ve been thinking a lot about visiting the Netherlands recently – and the main driving force for that desire is DOKK1. I first heard about DOKK1 last semester and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since. Their models for participatory services are innovative, community-oriented, and hold true to essence of Boekesteijn’s quote: they keep stories, share stories, and make stories. Boekesteijn’s quote also brings me back Jonah Berger’s STEPPS method for creating contagious content. Berger’s sixth principle suggests that information is more effectively transmitted when tied to a story (Berger, 2013, p. 196). DOK, the Library Concept Center, has exemplified this storytelling principle through their Heritage Browser and Local Stories project. The Heritage Browser enables library users to retrieve historical images of the street they live on by simply placing their library card on an interactive touch screen. Local Stories enables users to become part of the storytelling project by uploading personal photos and exchanging their own stories with others.
Other libraries are encouraging community members to tell their stories in a live setting, such as the Mill Valley Public Library’s The Naked Truth and the UCCS Kraemer Family Library’s Intergenerational Storytelling Contest. There are also opportunities for libraries to use social media for digital storytelling. SFPL partnered with Storycenter, a Berkeley-based public program, to record local stories and upload to them to their Youtube channel. Storycenter offers workshops on story creation and digital storytelling.
The full youtube playlist can be found here
Another storytelling playlist offered on SFPL’s Youtube channel is the Haight Ashbury Oral History Project. In 2005, SFPL went directly to the local community for their first-hand accounts of the hippie movement.
The full playlist can be found here
My recollection is that there was awareness that there was an awakening happening, out there in the hinterlands, that there were kids out there that were freaks that didn’t know that there were others, and they knew that they were strange and different…and maybe our vision, or what I sensed, was that maybe they were kind of scared and alone. Part of the Human Be-In was to run a flag up the pole so high that said, “Hey, there are others of us here. You are not alone.”Ann Cohen, San Francisco Oracle Haight Ashbury History (at 13:47)
In this video Richard Honigman, Ann Cohen, Martine Algier, and Azul Robert Simmons share their stories about the underground newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle, and the 60s counterculture movement in San Francisco. They talk about everything from the origin of the words “beatnik” and “hippie” (at 4:47) to the performances held at the Avalon and Fillmore (at 12:30). Hearing this information directly from the source gives these stories an added meaningfulness. Like DOKK1’s Local Stories project, it recognizes that the best people to gather local history from are the community members themselves. As Michael Stephens says, “Preserving a community’s digital heritage is the work of both libraries and museums, but involving the community in these efforts is imperative as we move forward” (Stephens, 2016, p. 80).
A little side note
At one point in the SFPL Oral History video, Azul Robert Simmons describes the collaborative artmaking process of the hippies:
“Many people worked often on one painting or one page, and the Surrealists used to do that also, pass it on to the next person, pass it on to the next person…open creativity, because there was a lessening of the ego…we’re sharing a vision.” (at 25:40)
While hearing Simmons describe this open collaboration, I was reminded of another video I had watched earlier on CPL’s Youmedia Youtube channel. The video tells the story of the teens who participated in Youmedia’s summer printmaking workshop. One teen describes how her favorite part of the program was a group project (at 2:30). It was strikingly similar to Simmons’ description, with each student adding their own contribution to one collaborative large-scale screenprint. It made me consider how participatory library services get the community to become involved and collaborate in a similar manner, whether it’s through sharing their own stories, or becoming involved in the planning/creation of services. Participatory services and transparency ultimately recognize this strength in collaboration.
Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: why things catch on. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Stephens, M. (2012). In The Heart of Librarianship. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.
Stephens, M. (2017). Telling stories. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=telling-stories-office-hours