Community engagement and public libraries suggest a certain symbiosis. For instance, through oral history projects or connecting rural communities. Re-weaving this convergence, Sherry Norfolk and Jane Stenson highlight how storytelling strengthens community connections in their recent book, Engaging Community through Storytelling: Library and Community Programming.
An inspirational documentation of the myriad uses of storytelling in libraries, community centres and schools, the book chronicles an array of model storytelling projects, providing practical and motivating insights to guide librarians on how to expand their roles as custodians of their community’s stories. Common threads of passion, dedication and teamwork weave through the different projects that have been contributed to the book. Each illustrate a belief that shared stories of experiences break down barriers between people and help them see past differences to find common ground upon which to nurture community – particularly salient in the current climate of divisiveness and cultural tensions.
Projects documented are organised around their target audience, speaking to specific community needs in their given contexts:
- projects highlighting intercultural understanding, explore diversity, social justice-focused storytelling and media, international cultural exchanges, and intergenerational knowledge;
- projects focussed on elders reflect how they capture community knowledge and lived experiences, foster communication, and strengthen intergenerational ties;
- cultural storytelling projects reveal their impact on visibility, collective experiences, and cross-cultural possibilities;
- student-focused programs showcase pathways to skill-building and youth engagement; and,
- projects around disenfranchised voices underline the potential of stories for at-risk youth, addiction recovery, and people living with Alzheimer’s and other needs.
Featured projects provide a detailed picture of storytelling in action across community work in libraries, schools, community centres, churches, homeless shelters and synagogues. Setting out ideas, processes, and practical workings of these diverse projects, the authors create a template of key concepts and adaptable lessons for model storytelling.
Engaging Community through Storytelling underscores how the life of community is built on stories.
Sherry Norfolk is adjunct professor at Lesley University, storyteller, teaching artist, and coauthor of The Storytelling Classroom series. Jane Stenson is a storyteller and teaching artist, and co-chair at the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers’ Alliance for the National Storytelling Network.
Photo: Seattle City Council/Flickr