Tales from the Street

Exploring how libraries can work together with marginalised communities to create more democratic spaces.

The challenge:

Around the corner from the Dokk1 Public Library in the centre of Aarhus is Værestedet – a drop-in centre for people on the margins of society due to addiction, homelessness and social or mental health problems. The library team wanted to make their waterfront building more welcoming to their neighbours, so they came up with some innovative ideas.

The initiative

First, they hired an active member of the Værestedet community to work with an experienced librarian. Then, together, they planned and delivered a series of activities. This included setting up a reading corner at the drop-in centre, which also helped to promote events at Dokk1.     

Tales from the Street emerged when the Værestedet community started coming together each week at the drop-in centre to write about their lives through free creative writing sessions. This gave them the opportunity to share their stories and develop their voices as writers. Eventually the sessions moved to Dokk1. 

The Værestedet community’s talents were celebrated through an event showcasing their art, poetry and music.

What’s next?

The challenge team’s collaboration has reimagined the services a library provides and how to reach a wider group of people. Dokk1 colleagues emphasise the importance of listening to what people want to change and practising that by co-decision making and taking actions together. 

The challenge team is now considering how to make this an open-ended process with other groups of people, making decisions together about how the library can work as a hub for democratic participation. 

They said: “We have learned valuable lessons about how libraries can engage and work together with vulnerable and socially marginalised communities. Such lessons could be useful for other libraries across Europe.”

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