I was browsing through TED talks and came across this playlist: “New to TED? (11 talks)” which is a list of 11 top talks showing the range of topics covered by TED.
I really enjoyed the talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called: “The danger of a single story.”
Now I know that in her talk, she was discussing both cultural differences in story books and stereotypes, but I think the points she was making really contribute to the stereotype of the library debate that continues to rage today.
Chimamanda says: “The single story creates stereotypes. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” [13:14-13:27] I think the stereotype of libraries being all about books is a single story and one that puts libraries in danger.
This is demonstrated by David Oddie, a Marlborough District Councillor, who wryly commented that: “it would be cheaper to buy every resident signed up to the library a Kindle and rely on e-books, rather than operate a traditional library system.” Click here to read more. The reason that he thought he was justified in making this comment is that he believed (wrongly, in my opinion) that all the library offers is books.
Now don’t get me wrong – libraries do offer books and they are a big part of what libraries are about. I also love books and think it is a really positive association. But books are not the only aspect of libraries. It is fantastic to hear people reminiscing about their childhood experiences of libraries and how they enjoyed running down the road and coming back with a wagon-load of books. But if these are the only stories we hear about libraries, I think we are in danger of being out-of-touch and redundant in today’s information society.
The solution to the ‘problem’ of the library stereotype is not to try to get rid of books entirely, and say that libraries all all about tech, content, or community. The library is about all these things – and more! I believe the solution is to share more stories about different aspects of libraries. This issue is also being addressed by LIANZA’s #brandlibraries project which helps to tell more multifaceted stories of libraries and focuses on building a library brand.
We need more stories like these to show the versatility of libraries:
- Libraries lend a hand to youth – Far from becoming irrelevant in the digital age, libraries are adapting to become more like youth clubs, finds Danielle Wright.
- Taking the library to our users on Towel Day
Would you agree? How do you think we can do better as librarians and libraries with sharing our stories?