Discover a New Perspective at Your Local Library
Our interconnected world allows for rapid communications and business to transpire between every country, continent, and culture. However, much of this connection takes place online these days (especially in the age of COVID), making it difficult to directly engage with new people and experiences.
Luckily, libraries continue to provide a wealth of cultural touchstones, allowing interested readers a chance to discover new cultures, ideas, and locations. Many of the problems we face as people come from a lack of understanding and cooperation, making it more critical than ever to be concerned with the range of perspectives that people go through.
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In general, “cultural awareness” refers to observing, understanding, and embracing the similarities and differences found between the cultures of our world. Your local library is an excellent place to start if you are hoping to expose yourself to the experiences of people around the world. Let’s explore a few different ways that public libraries help enrich the public through cultural awareness.
Libraries Provide Literature from Around the Globe
Public libraries are a great resource for finding literature from authors of all backgrounds. Libraries work hard to make sure they have a wide array of books concerning every topic under the sun. An effective method to becoming more culturally aware is through working to understand new perspectives and experiences — the world is a huge place, and there will always be someone living it in a different manner than you.
Books can provide an intimate glimpse into the life and mind of an author — their fears, their joys, their deepest thoughts — making literature a wonderful place to start when you’re looking to increase your cultural awareness. Your local library will have books from many cultural backgrounds, ranging from everyday perspectives to ancient religious texts. Many libraries even curate their literature into easily accessible collections relating to a variety of cultural experiences.
The University of Oklahoma Libraries system provides a comprehensive collection of literature and texts relating to the history of the American West. The Western History Collection researches the development of western America, as well as the Native American cultures of the area, in order to provide easy-to-access knowledge to the public.
Libraries as Historical Resources
It is important to understand the history of cultures around the world in order to understand their experiences today. Public libraries have a range of historical texts from around the world, and are an excellent resource for learning about world history. From tensions between nations to the displacement of communities around the globe, books about world history can provide a wealth of knowledge that will help you understand the world we live in today. Your local library will have historical texts relating to events and cultures throughout all of history and will have them organized for convenient research.
Learn New Languages
Language is an intrinsic part of cultural expression, as it allows people to communicate their beliefs and values. Language helps us define the reality in which we all share, making it an essential part of the cultural function. While learning a new language is a large undertaking, it is one of the most immersive ways that you can go about understanding other cultures. Even if you don’t learn to speak another language fluently, having an understanding of how another language functions can give you great insight into their culture and everyday experiences.
Libraries have a number of resources that can help you learn a new language, including books and CDs, online resources and programs, in-person classes, and more. Ask a librarian at your local library for language-learning resources and they would be happy to assist in either finding the right books or scheduling a conversation group to practice your fluency. For example, the Los Angeles Public Library system provides 24/7 online access to language-learning services and courses.
Books Can Help You Travel
Traveling the world and spending time in other cultures is one of the most immersive ways to expose yourself to the experiences of other people. There are a plethora of books about traveling that can help you get the most out of your experience in any destination. Aside from a simple map book or travel guide, there are also a number of books written by travelers that can inspire you to get out and experience the world.
Want to join the Beat Generation on a rollicking cross-country road trip? Try Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Or maybe you are in the mood to accompany dwarves, wizards, and other fantastical creatures on a grand quest for treasure? The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein will take you there.
Your local library will have traveling books of all kinds, from personal accounts of adventures to in-depth guides that can help get you familiar with an exotic destination.
Libraries Provide Local Knowledge
While libraries all over the world work hard to provide an array of knowledge and information from all backgrounds, they are also a great resource for local history. Most libraries have collections of literature written by local authors, as well as books that cover interests of that area, making them a great place to visit if you are traveling in a new area.
For example, the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago features a special collection of photographs, manuscripts, art, books, and artifacts that relate to Chicago neighborhoods (including its many theaters, libraries, and parks). Visiting libraries in communities other than your own can provide a glimpse into the local history and everyday life of the people who live there.
Discover a New Perspective at Your Local Library
Libraries are a valuable part of every community. From providing extensive collections of literature to offering community services of all kinds, they are constantly working to engage the public and raise their collective knowledge. Through their efforts, libraries are an excellent resource for bringing cultural awareness and new understandings to their communities.
Not only do they provide a wealth of knowledge through literature, but they also organize their communities by providing an array of learning and support services. Your local library is a wonderful place to visit if you are hoping to expose yourself to the endlessly different experiences of people around the world.