Living Stories, Living Libraries

Living Stories, Living Libraries is a digital storytelling initiative launched in collaboration with the American Library Association. It is part documentary, part art-project, and part advocacy and awareness tool.

The blog relies on photo documentary-style submissions to capture the diverse stories of people using libraries, and it gives individuals a place to share how libraries have impacted their lives, hear from others, and connect ideas. Most importantly, it provides a space for you to tell your own story.

You may be wondering, “Why tell my story?” Your words are powerful. You have a story that only you can tell, and storytelling is a vital way to capture the changing experiences people have with libraries during one of the most rapidly transforming eras in history—the digital revolution. Libraries themselves are adapting to make technology and innovation tools available to everyone, yet no large-scale database currently exists to house all the unique stories of library impact on individuals. There is no single resource to point to when people claim libraries are no longer necessary, or that library budgets should be downsized. This initiative seeks to fill that gap.

The project has two goals: The first is sharing and community—having a place to change perceptions and show all the ways modern libraries are a vital public space that meet many needs. The blog can be a resource for librarians to get ideas and share successes. It is also a way to build a database of stories useful to researchers, academics, and anyone discussing public access to knowledge.

The second is advocacy: the material is licensed under a Creative Commons non-commercial, share-alike agreement. Anything on the site can be used and distributed for any non-profit purpose, and you are encouraged to use the material as advocacy tool!

The idea for this project originated a year ago, when I started looking at libraries as drivers of community development. At this point, a bout of madness overtook me and I decided to write a thesis around the topic. I traveled across rural Romania on a grant, interviewing librarians and patrons about how Internet access through the library impacted their communities. And I learned two important things: libraries are unsung liberators, and everyone in a library has a story.

I wanted to find a way to document the stories people told me about how the library has made differences great and small in their lives. More than that, I wanted to share them in an accessible, human way, because the stories themselves reflected a stunning humanity. Across diverse cultures and communities, libraries fill needs as unique as the people who use them.

I invite you now to follow the blog, to share the project widely with colleagues using the #librariesinthewild tag, and tell your own unique story. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, mkavaras@alawash.org.