By Rebecca Colbert, Head of Collection and Bibliographic Services @ The Library District
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of human connections lately and the old-fashioned values of getting to know your neighbors. Studies show that positive social interactions and a sense of community may help slow the aging process, improve mental health, lower blood pressure, and reduce loneliness, all of which lead to a boost in happiness and well-being.
Our libraries are ideal places to find that sense of belonging. We have so many classes, programs, art gallery showings, and live performances where kids, teens, and adults can all “make new friends and keep the old,” to quote one of my favorite Girl Scout songs.
As librarians, we are so grateful for your participation in our library community! Your requests help us give you the best service possible, and your attendance at our programs shows us what information and entertainment matters to you. And, when you bring your children to our Storytimes, it helps pass on the joy of the library to future generations.
Here are a few suggestions from our catalog to help you think differently about our need to connect to one another.
Food Elevates the Mood
Regular readers of this column know that besides books, food is one of my favorite subjects. I stumbled across a mind-blowing event on Facebook a few weeks ago that mashed up the two — a cookbook book club! This group gets together and reads the same cookbook for a month, then makes a few of the recipes and reconvenes in a potluck to share their dishes and discuss the hits, misses, and inspirations. What a unique way to discover new foods and new friends!
Mi Casa, Su Casa
Remember the Welcome Wagon? Neighborhood Watch groups? When neighbors kept an eye out for each other instead of waiting for the homeowners’ association to do it? You can resurrect this spirit in ways big and small.
And it starts young. Get your kids off the couch and onto the sidewalk helping others, making friends, and feeling a connection to your own little corner of the world with “25 Fun Things to Do For Your Neighbors” by Paul Mason. He suggests washing an elderly neighbor's car or pulling weeds from a flowerbed, or for older kids, offering to walk a dog, organizing a block party, or cleaning up litter. Community building comes naturally to kids. Set some safe, age-appropriate boundaries, share input about a project, and let them collaborate.
Not surprisingly, our digital collection has nearly a dozen books titled “Better Together.” One of my favorites that gives us busy moms the support we need is “Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone” by Jill Savage. She offers practical tips for starting a moms’ group to combat isolation and increase confidence and connection. Both you and your children will benefit!
We Are the World
What starts on your own block can help you look toward the bigger picture. With thousands of new residents settling in Las Vegas every month, it can be hard to reach out and get to know who shares your neighborhood or apartment complex. But looking beyond your own walls will help you find a cause and make a difference.
America faces huge challenges such as climate change, social injustice, racism, and economic insecurity. Journalist Sarah van Gelder suspected that there were solutions happening, and she went looking for them, not in the centers of power, but off the beaten track, in rural communities, small towns, and neglected urban neighborhoods. In her book, “The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America,” she discovered people and communities who are remaking America from the ground up. You will enjoy meeting her quirky, committed local heroes who are getting important things done.
Another great example of looking at the big picture is “Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World” by Nikki Tate. Too often, we look at someone and see the ways that we are different instead of recognizing our common humanity. Nikki examines how people around the world come together to build things, teach and entertain each other, and provide everything from better health care to good food to security and education. This book shows us how to move from personal caring to collective activity.
How Did We Get Here?
In order to reconnect as a society, it’s important to understand how we became so disconnected. Digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s “Team Human” is a manifesto that looks at our modern digital culture and identifies not only opportunities but valuable reasons, to work together. In one hundred lean and incisive statements, he makes the case that we are social creatures at heart, and dissects the forces that undermine our ability to connect (hello, Internet?).
Peter Block’s revolutionary book “Community: The Structure of Belonging” shares stories about political gridlock, poverty, people of faith, and institutional life to illustrate how we arrived at our present ideological divide. Like Douglas Rushkoff, he explores how technology has driven us into isolation and makes a compelling case that community building will be the way to address social problems, once we make it our priority.
Stream or Download the Answers
Over on Hoopla Digital, our media streaming platform for audiobooks, comics, eBooks, movies, music, and TV shows, Pastor Rusty George shares his thoughts with a Christian perspective in his eBook entitled “Better Together: Discover the Power of Community.”
I will let his words speak for themselves: “Could it be that the only way to fix ‘me’ is found in ‘we’? … Together we heal better. Together we overcome fears, raise families, fight temptations, and … learn how to live in true community to find fulfillment.”
Also on Hoopla, check out the documentary film “A Proper Pint” by director Kevin Siegert, who celebrates pub culture in Ireland and the role of the pub as an essential part of rural communities. In an age where technology and the light-speed pace of life seem to dominate our lives, the local pub reminds us that face-to-face conversations are the best form of human communication.
Kanopy is our on-demand streaming video platform offering you a host of films on the power of collective action. Two that I have found especially insightful include:
- “The United States of Detroit” explores the resilience of Detroit’s neighborhoods and the city’s past, present, and future.
- “Gaining Ground: Building Community on Dudley Street” explores the innovative, grassroots Dudley Street Initiative in Boston, showcasing this preeminent model of community-based change.
The Power of Together
Personally, I think it’s just more FUN to be with other like minds. Crafters, quilters, and knitters already know this. What might seem like a giant idea alone, becomes manageable and more creative with others.
So reach out, take a risk, get to know your neighbors. If you need something to break the ice, ask them if they have been to their local library. Check out all that we have to offer at LVCCLD.org, and we hope to see you soon.