Why I Support the Library: Native American Storyteller Dovie Thomason
Dovie Thomason loves telling her stories at libraries because they are all-age spaces where children, young parents, and retirees feel comfortable together.
“I love intergenerational storytelling because you see people smiling and laughing and nodding at different places,” she said.
Thomason is The Library’s guest for special programs celebrating Native American Heritage Month. Increasingly, the award-winning Lakota, Apache, and Scot Traveler ancestry storyteller seeks out libraries for her renowned presentations.
How did you experience libraries as a child?
My first guardian angels were librarians. They saw I could read way ahead of grade level. It was a tiny library in a small town, but I read my whole library, and I didn’t stop when I got to the dictionary because I could sit with it for days. A library was the most magical, safest place in the world. That was the only place I would see books, outside the school library. We couldn’t afford books. In the library, I was free to just be alone with imagination.
What do you appreciate about libraries today? Libraries are not the still, quiet, controlled environments they once were. There could be all kinds of things going on. I can be storytelling, and there are youth and kids’ activities. They have filled an important space for young people.
How do libraries serve their communities?
Libraries are the social centers of many communities, even more so since the pandemic. Not every community has a youth center, or a senior center, and all the services that come with them. Often, the library is the only place that houses all of that. Libraries are the heart or gathering places of our communities.
How do libraries dovetail with your work?
Libraries are the cathedral of literacy. They’re full of books. But at the same time, I am the most literate generation in my family — the first generation to finish high school, college, and grad school. Then, I taught English, and I was a university professor. My grandmother couldn’t encourage me to be literate, but my grandmother could encourage me to listen and be verbal. Libraries that house storytelling seem to understand that the ability to listen and speak is part of reading and writing. They are the four pillars that hold up knowledge.
Do libraries have roots in oral traditions?
Libraries, by their very nature know they’re covering so many types of literacy. They have everything from graphic novels to magazines to the great works. They have so many genres of books to house that it makes them immediately inclusive. If you’re going to house knowledge, you’re going to be inclusive.