Latvian National Commission for UNESCO, network „Storytelling Libraries”

UNESCO implements heritage and educational programmes in order to support protection of the humankind’s heritage, valuable historical artefacts and similar values. One of the tasks of the UNESCO activities in Latvia is to emphasise the values, in order to strengthen the statehood and belonging, and also to seek new ways that can be employed in telling meaningful stories to the general public, thus promoting the sustainable development based on the aforementioned values.

Stories and storytelling are the focus of UNESCO both as a manifestation of the intangible cultural heritage as a specific value, and as a substantial social skill and method helping to strengthen the inter-generation dialogue, encouraging understanding and respect towards other cultures, promoting synergy between different types of heritage. Storytelling provides everyone with an opportunity to realise oneself at any stage of one’s life also within the framework of lifelong learning, constantly improving the quality of life, the social and cultural environment.

The Latvian National Commission for UNESCO in 2008 initiated the project „Draugu stāsti” (‘Stories of friends’), within the framework of which in different libraries fairy-tales from many countries were told to children with the aim to strengthen the intercultural and inter-generation communication and solidarity in Latvia, also developing the creativity of children and youth. Library as a location for storytelling was met with enthusiasm, therefore in early 2009 LNC initiated the project „Stāstu laiks bibliotēkās” (‘Story time in libraries’). In 2013 the initiative  was renamed into the network „Storytelling Libraries”, where particular emphasis is placed upon the storytelling tradition as an important part of the intangible cultural heritage, emphasising its role in exploration of the local cultural heritage. Within the framework of the network the storytellers’ festival tradition of the historical regions of Latvia – Zemgale, Vidzeme and Latgale – was established. The participants to this network as an active group of storytellers annually add to the richness of traditions at the Kurzeme storytellers festival „Ziv’ zup’”.

Since 2017 37 libraries participate in the network, regularly organising various events devoted to storytelling, as well as participating in the activities organised by the LNC. Stories told at the innumerable events are instrumental in gathering the data on values of the local cultural heritage, individuals important for the history of the locality and the events of local history, so these can be marked, documented, preserved and made available to the future generations.

The network is a special platform for cooperation and sharing of experience gathered by the Latvian libraries, within the framework of which a wide range of activities devoted to cultural heritage and storytelling traditions are undertaken. One of the tasks of this network is to provide the informal education in the field of preservation of the cultural heritage.

The participants of the network are provided with opportunities to improve their individual and professional skills, especially in involvement of the local communities in the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage, popularisation of storytelling traditions and creative implementation of Latvia’s manifold cultural heritage. Each year there are least two seminars organised for the participants of the network „Storytelling Libraries” along with a summer school, in addition to those also offering participation opportunities in various creative events, projects and initiatives on national and international level.

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