Monday, November 21, 2005

Diwali, or Festival of Light

I went to a Diwali celebration last night--the Festival of Light in India. There was music, singing, dance, a special fashion show, food and friends.

I bring it up because I realized three things about libraries and communities, while I experienced my first Diwali:
1. I had no idea this celebration even existed.
In my North-American-centered world, this major festival had never registered before. No news coverage. Not even when I lived in the UK. So I didn't know it existed. Of course, if I would have sat down and thought really hard, I probably would have realized that there should be a Christmas-equivalent (in terms of status/societal importance) in India. But the simple fact is, I rarely sit down and think hard about things outside the scope of my experience.

-->Your library may be completely awesome, but if you don't get regular news coverage or generate a visible, tangible presence in people's lives--would-be library supporters may not actually know you exist. Even though you're right downtown! Even though you have a big brick building! Even though there are blue signs everywhere!

2. The room was populated with people from all cultures.
I freely admit (as if you hadn't guessed from this post yet) that I do not have a South Asian/Indian background. I do have a Native American background--but that is as close as I get to India, with bloodlines. But bloodlines don't matter much, in the 21st century. Or do they?
It's easy to assume that only Indians would be interested in an Indian festival, but that was clearly not the case. I went to learn and to experience something new.

-->People may walk through your door, hit your site, use your database, chat on virtual reference software who are bloodlines library supporters (you know what I mean) and people who know absolutely nothing about an OPAC. But they've shown up and how can you make them feel welcome?

3. It's difficult to articulate your own culture when you're still in it.
As I watched the traditional dances and listened to music from Bollywood, I reflected how difficult it would be, had the positions been reversed. If I lived in India, and wanted to encapsulate all American culture into a single evening event for my host country--what would I say? How would I structure it to reflect a true experience? Would we sing country and western ballads? Jazz? Re-enact a baseball game? There is so much to communicate, where would I start?

-->As a citizen of the library (and you as library staff members/librarians), I get lost in the details. I mean there is so much good stuff (!) and so many intricacies of the way holds and reserves are set, databases are accessed, etc. But in order to get good perspective on what's important to my library culture, I need to leave the building. Go live with another culture (be that the coffee shop, the supermarket, the hospital, the police station, the fitness center, the train station) for a day. And then bring those reflections back with you, when you return to your own.

To sum up, the experience of my first Diwali also made me realize: while I am not Indian myself, I actually have a lot in common with many people who are.

To experience another culture is to recognize your self, within it.
Now I am feeling distinct *profound*! Anyone else have a good Diwali story to share?


Anonymous said...

LII has featured sites on Diwali for several years. We did again this year. We continue to rock!

Alice said...

Libraries rock!

Adi said...

Yesterday I was lookinf for some good wallpapers and e-cards of Diwali, which I can send to my cousins. After a grueling search I was able to find out one website which is really virtuous. See this: - Diwali


Viren said...

Happy Diwali to you and all readers. As all of know that Diwali is a festival of India. But now a days so many Indians are living in other countries of the world. And Indian people are eagerly waiting for diwali festival because Diwali is a major festival of india. They can not reach India on this festival. so, they celebrate this festival where they lives. Now a days so many non Indians means foreigner people also celebrete this festival with great joy.