“How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?” Below, deputy director of the Chattanooga, Tenn., Public Library, writes about the communities and the social contract embodied in libraries.
This morning, for perhaps the 46th time, I read my toddler son a book called “Mine-o-saur.” In the story, the Mino-o-saur learns that he needs to share his toys with other dinosaurs to make friends. When he was alone with all of the toys, he was sad, and the community of other dinosaurs moved on and had fun with different toys elsewhere. My son stared intently at the book, and you could see the gears in his little head turning… “I better not act like the Mine-o-saur; I like having friends!
Sharing is an essential part of healthy social interactions, and our culture knows and values this so highly that we begin conditioning children to understand it from a very early age. A community, defined as a unified body of individuals, isn’t much of a community without some kind of sharing system, including access rules, behavioral modes and a resulting social contract. In early cultures, people lived collectively and shared child care and food preparation duties. Now, communities might share playful things, such as toys, as the Mine-o-saur learned, or they may share crucial infrastructure, such as a plumbing system or an electrical grid. They can share space, water, food, knowledge, books or livestock. They might share a network connection, computers or other devices.