Kathleen Slatford profile

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Kathleen Slatford

Kingston University London (2023)


Professor Maria Chatzichristodoulou


Storytelling in Libraries: Making Community


The legacy of austerity in the UK has necessitated a rethinking of the role of public libraries and their scope and purpose within our communities, including the re-imagining of local libraries as ‘Neighbourhood Spaces’ (formerly known as ‘Community Hubs’). This project will investigate storytelling as a tool for community development and well-being, focusing on how storytelling can be used by Library Services to bring together diverse local communities. By partnering with Camden Borough Library Services, this CDA will identify best practice in the design and delivery of library-based community-building storytelling initiatives, and model approaches to inclusive and sustainable communities through storytelling practices within public libraries. The thesis will include an adaptable and scalable storytelling toolkit that can be used as a blueprint to roll out across other libraries or contexts in future.

Using the public library as a community space is not enough to enhance community cohesion, particularly in very diverse areas such as Camden. As Sunga and Hepworth (2013) argue, this needs specific and localised programmes, designed around the particular strengths and assets of local residents. This research will take a participatory action approach to collaborate with communities from the outset, in order to co-design storytelling focusing on the needs of particular communities. Rather than following a deficit-based approach to community development that focusses on identifying and servicing needs, this project will use an asset-based approach that identifies and mobilizes the micro-skills of individuals and macro-assets of existing associations and institutions towards collaborative development (Nurture Development, 2018). This research will result in a deeper understanding of how to strengthen community cohesion and engagement with libraries through storytelling by providing a series of test cases with groups across Camden in order to identify best practice for how libraries and stories can be used as community assets to engender social transformation.