There are so many critical reasons that libraries are key to supporting and enhancing our communities. One example is that libraries act as cultural centers for the community they are in. This goes beyond the basic principal that libraries are open to the public and that means that different cultural groups will come and utilize the resources. Librarians can take on the role of preservationists for the unique cultures of their members in the community.
Philadelphia citizens and members of the historical society teamed up with other groups to create PhilaPlace, an online database where community stories are shared. (http://www.philaplace.org/) We as librarian’s in our communities could make this project possible in many more communities. By teaming up with local historical societies and working with the community we can collect and share many local stories that would be lost over time without our involvement. It also is an opportunity to share beyond the community, such as with genealogists and others looking for family and local stories.
Human Library’s have a unique take on what can be included in the libraries collections. They gather people from the community and have them act as the artifacts. Members can participate as a “reader” and speak to the “human books” and learn about them and their culture. (http://humanlibrary.org/index.html) One example of this is the idea of a Prejudice Library. Because these conversations are occurring in a safe environment, it is a way to explore prejudices without judgment.
“The Human Library must ALWAYS aim to reflect the challenges of people and groups in the community, that are or have been, exposed to stigma, discrimination, stereotyping or prejudice, based on their lifestyle, sexuality, religious beliefs, social background or status, occupation, ethnicity and so forth. It is not intended as a story telling event for interesting people who already have a voice in the community and media. But rather to give a voice, space and visibility to those of often have none or are overlooked as part of their marginalization.” (http://humanlibrary.org/take-out-your-prejudice.html)
Librarians act as a reference to guide the reader through their encounter with the book if they become confused or have trouble identifying or working through their stereotype in response to the human book they checked out.