Library: A Home for Culture

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Steven Sutantro


1st Place Essay Writing Competition @ LIBANEV (Library Annual Even)

The Johannes Oentoro Library-Universitas Pelita Harapan

Every community has their patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting that are transmitted from one generation to the next which refers to culture (Hughes &Kroehler, 2008, p. 43). They persist through time and are manifested in various ways that give identity to a region. Unfortunately, in this globalization era, many cultural institutions have been often neglected because they are not maintained well in society. In fact, there is a clear need of cultural institution that collects, organizes, and shares cultural information to preserve local cultural heritage. As one of the cultural institutions that collect the memory of the past, knowledge of the present, and legacy of the future of a local community, the library plays a significant role to preserve the local culture in a way that simply makes the library itself into a home for local culture. This essay will discuss the meaning, the ways, and the goals of the library as a home for local culture.
A library is more than a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials are kept for use. It can be a home for local culture where new and traditional knowledge resources go together to impact different ways of learning, teaching, and research. As the collector and steward of our heritage, this role reflects the ability of a community to use the historical society resources to define their own unique relationship with their local culture. In other words, the library is able to connect society to a point of self-recognition related to the greater whole of generations that has endured since the beginning of recorded history and will continue to endure as part of some future legacy (MacLennan, 2007). Local culture is a significant legacy that consists of socially transmitted customs, knowledge, material objects, and behavior (Schaefer, 2007, p.52). To preserve a valuable thing like local culture throughout generation, there is no other way than to make a home for local culture itself where local culture becomes the part of a‘family’ that abides in the midst of resources collection in the library. It requires three steps of building a home for culture in a library that are described as follows.
First, the library should develop a center of information and communication of local culture which means that the library should do more than just offer the document archive of the memories of a community; it should offer a variety of resources for cultural norms; values, symbols, and languages to preserve our local culture (scratches intellect, mind, results) in many shapes and forms like in printed, recorded and digital records of local culture. Historians Jacques Mathieu and Jacques Lacoursière wrote, “Collective memory is the point of reference through which we identify ourselves. It is self-regard in social, plural, connected to collective sensibilities. It sees the research of the past as a project of the present turned toward the future” (MacLennan, 2007). The library should enshrine and grant authority and meaning to the community’s collective memories, cultural values and histories because “scattered facts” by themselves are meaningless; they needed to be placed “in their proper relations” (Laugesen, 2004). Then, library should provide the opportunity for everyone to treasure the local culture by offering written and audiovisual materials related to folklore and history, or any materials that take into account the levels of comprehension of the users. For example, library can provide the community with folk stories; histories, quotes and photos of significant events that help people understand local norms, values, symbol, and language.
Secondly, the library should involve the community member of local culture as a home by getting participation of its own community in the activities that represent its cultural patrimony in the library. During its history, the library was created and maintained by the community so  the library should connect community to creatively develop an overall strategy that reflects the identity and personality of their own culture. It could be implemented through providing bulletin board space consisting of community groups’sharings, comments, and writings to promote their original norms, values, symbols and languages which show the uniqueness of their local culture. Local library bulletin boards are one of the best ways to build a relationship between the community and the library because any posting would be noticed by someone in the community and by someone who has visited that library. In addition, the library can also encourage the community to preserve local culture through providing local discussions, competitions, and exhibitions. Local discussions can reflect the uniqueness of the local community’s responses to local culture resources and issues. Meanwhile, local competitions can show the special gifts and talents of the local community to preserve their local culture creatively. For example, the library can conduct some writing or drawing competitions related to the local folklore to attract people to read about the books. Then, library can exhibit the cultural artwork as one of the library resources. As a result, the exhibitions will show how a library and community stand together to love, care and preserve their local culture.
Thirdly, the library should promote access to any cultural programs in the local community by doing “a cultural missionary work.” This program will encourage the library to continue to develop special collections that reflect cultural heritage, and to enhance promotion of, and access to these collections. The library should build connections with the outside community through requesting copies from publishers of periodicals of any articles, interviews, photographs, that are concerned with local culture. In addition, the library should make local artifacts available to the public from shopkeepers and from the artisans’ themselves. Librarians can make audiotapes of interviews with artisans for the library’s oral history and cultural collections. Then, librarians should also go out to search for information about concerts, competitions, meetings, and local fairs in the local community and record the participant’s involvement and contributions that reveal the unique identity of local culture. It is recommended that observations made at such events be inscribed on specific norms, values, or any cultural aspects. Also, the library can be the venues for accessible cultural, literary and arts events to local artists, authors and performers. The library should participate directly in cultural activities by provisions of staff, quarters, and equipment. Some examples of the library activities are support for local artisans through exhibits, presentation of musical events, compilations of oral history through interviews with artists, authors, storytellers, and preparation of background histories on local traditional celebrations.
In short, to build a home for local culture, the library should develop access to cultural information, encourage discovery, stimulate the imagination, and build community. It should develop participation of each local community to contribute and share their unique characteristics to give ‘cultural color’ to the library. It also should develop broad connections with the outside community to keep the library updated with cultural developments in the community. By drawing on these fundamental needs of a home, the library can inspire motivation to each member of the community to experience the vibrancy of their cultural life. Finally, as the collective memory that are produced by groups or communities from generation to generation, the library will become ‘a home’ for the local community to collect, preserve, and make accessible the cultural heritage reflecting the uniqueness of each cultures and communities that preserve the life of the community.
Hughes, M. &Kroehler, C.J. (2008). Sociology: The core. New York: McGrawHill.
Laugesen, A. (2004). Keeper of histories: the state historical society of wisconsin. Library and Its Cultural Work, 1860–1910. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 39(1), 13-35.
MacLennan, B. (2007). The library and its place in cultural memory: the grandebibliothèque du québec in the construction of social and cultural identity. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42 (4), 349-386.

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Schaefer, R.T. (2007). Sociology. New York: McGrawHills.

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