Libraries are one of our most important learning centres and gathering places in our communities. Their importance to the welfare of people and their ability to learn and expand their knowledge cannot be underestimated. There’s magic and history to be found in their walls - stories, places to gather and places to learn. 

As key placeholders in the community, they have long sustained engagement in various ways, and librarians understand their people in ways that even local councillors cannot. By not only supporting and empowering people and families with lower literacy skills, but also as infrastructure for those who seek to learn, libraries connect people from all walks of life, every day. Additionally, librarians have powerful knowledge and skills in fostering connections between learning and people, and responding to meet their needs.

With recent upheavals and closures to libraries due to COVID-19 restrictions this year, the place of libraries in the hearts of our communities has been pushed to the forefront. Many librarians were busier than ever while their doors were shut as participation in programming grew with a transition to online sessions; click and collect and home deliveries became the alternatives for borrowing; and vulnerable members of some communities were still provided limited access to certain resources in a safe, socially distant setting. While their physical spaces may have been empty of people, there has been nothing short of transformation and activity.

Led by librarians and education platforms such as Story Box Library, libraries are transforming, creating opportunities for learning in every community. New digital spaces are evolving the traditional library model, with incredible results. As part of our shared public spaces, optimising stories for different mediums and audiences can transform education and learning for all, and play an important role in community sustainability.

Innovative powers of storytelling

Storytelling is as old as time. It allows communities and cultures to not only make sense of their world, share knowledge and wisdom, but also inspire dreaming and hope. But the way we tell stories and share their worlds is changing, and for the better. 

Tracey Hawkins, Community Liaison Librarian from the State Library of Western Australia, shared her experiences comparing library engagement before and during COVID-19 lockdowns, and how families have been able to use Story Box Library to share stories in the home.

“During COVID-19 we have increasingly connected with families via our online platforms and social media channels and, as such, have actively promoted Story Box Library as an accessible resource for families looking for quality online story content,” Tracey said.

“Online engagement with Story Box Library (and in fact, across all of our online resources) increased significantly during the period when our doors, and those of many public libraries in Western Australia, were closed...Statistics continue to show greater engagement than pre-COVID-19 times,” she elaborated.

The possibilities for libraries as engagement hubs for their communities, and as conversation starters, are growing with the adaption to digital. Online resources and stories from the Story Box Library can enhance the storytelling experience, and connect people in ways not previously imagined. 

Learning is a two-way street

Libraries allow for opportunity for feedback from their members to improve their services, and properly meet their needs. In order to innovate successfully, community centres must listen to and respond to the needs of their people. Not only does this mean sourcing literature suitable to their audiences, but also providing the means of access that is common to everyone, in language they understand.

“In our community there are also a number of families where English is the second language, so listening to stories told in English can assist in the development of language skills for these children (and maybe even others in the family),” Amy from Glen Eira said.

“You’re participating and engaging with others in your community and engaging with what is arguably one of your community’s largest support networks.”

Using libraries as a key means of community participation, engagement and support means that not only do libraries provide stories and information to their people, they listen to their people closely, and help pave better futures for everyone, especially between parents and children.

“Libraries help build a solid foundation in helping parents foster a love of reading with their children,” Lisa Ryan from Gympie Library in Queensland, explained. “Any platform or programs that can help libraries build this foundation is a bonus.”

This is part one of a two part SBL blog. Read part two when released on Saturday 2nd January. 

Librarians interested in using Story Box Library in their community can contact to find out more.