Storytelling in Libraries: Making Community

In partnership with Camden Library Services and Kingston School of Art.

Kingston School of Art and Camden Library Services welcome applications for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership studentship: Storytelling in Libraries: Making Community. This is offered under the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership Scheme, to begin in October 2023.

Deadline for expressions of interest: 8 January 2023, midnight (UK time)

Interviews: Tuesday 17 January 2023

Project supervisors: Professor Maria Chatzichristodoulou and Professor Meg Jensen (co-supervisors), Kingston School of Art, in collaboration with Fiona Tarn of Camden Library Services.

Project vision

Across the country, public library services are re-imagining their roles to support the rapidly-changing needs of their communities, driven by shifting demographics, digital technology, the climate crisis, the pandemic and the UK's challenging economic environment. Local authorities have lost significant funding since 2010, which had an impact on local library services. The legacy of austerity in the UK has necessitated a rethinking of the meaning of 'community' as well as the scope and purpose of public libraries, including the re-imagining of local libraries as 'Community Hubs.' Recent studies have demonstrated that to develop successful and transformative community groups, a sense of "psychological safety" and mutual trust must be created, and that such a safe space can be enabled through the sharing of stories over time (Duhigg 2016; Edmonson 1999). Strong community bonds, forged by shared storytelling, lead to the kinds of transformative thinking that is necessary to address the multiple challenges facing UK communities and local library systems today.

During and post Covid, demands have been placed on library systems to conceive of strategies to break down social isolation and support wellbeing through the delivery of creative events and services, in addition to offering health information, public education, facilitating community interaction and enhancing social cohesion. This collaborative doctoral award (CDA) seeks to intervene in this challenging context by analysing the effectiveness of a practice-research storytelling methodology in asset-based community development. Conducted in partnership between Kingston School of Art and Camden Borough Libraries in central London, this CDA will identify best practice in the design and delivery of library-based, transformative, community-building storytelling initiatives, and model approaches to inclusive and sustainable communities through storytelling practices within the public libraries context.

Camden Borough Council aspires to transform its Library Services into 'Community Hubs', where residents can access, alongside books, cultural and community events, educational and developmental activities, information and council services. Most importantly, the community hubs must serve residents through facilitating interaction and connections between different communities in order to build community resilience, reduce social isolation and improve health and wellbeing. The hubs aim to connect a diverse range of people through different community led activities that take an ‘asset development' approach, enabling communities to build on their strengths. This project will research the use of storytelling as one of the main tools in leading this transformation of library services from assets that primarily serve individuals, to hubs that serve and connect the whole community.

The project will begin by identifying best practice via the collection and analysis of data on existing local, library-based storytelling activities across Camden, focusing on their impact on health, well-being and community cohesion. It will interrogate and quantify the value of storytelling as a tool for community development that can support Library Services in their community, bringing together diverse local and regional groups.

Under the supervision and guidance of Chatzichristodoulou, Jensen and Tarn, the appointed researcher will undertake the following:

  1. Track, collate and analyse data generated by existing local, library-based storytelling activities across Camden, focusing on their impact on health, well-being and community cohesion. Storytelling in this context is understood broadly, and can include thematic conversations, storytelling for children and young people, creative writing, oral histories, visual and sensory storytelling, and more. The researcher will identify and examine existing examples of good practice, developing oversight of storytelling initiatives for community development by public and community libraries in the UK.
  2. Based on data collection and analysis, they will (co-)design with Camden Library staff and deliver a programme of storytelling aimed at enhancing community participation and cohesion. Storytelling will be used towards asset-based community development through a practice-research methodology. The programme could take place across all Camden libraries or focus on one-two libraries in the Borough, depending on need.
  3. Drawing on the combined datasets generated by desk study, observation and analysis, practice research, reflection and evaluation, they will lead on the development of a storytelling toolkit for public libraries as an output of this research. The researcher will then deliver the toolkit to Camden libraries, testing it with library staff.

For informal enquires about the project contact: 

Award details

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the studentship covers tuition fees (home rate only) and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. AHRC studentship rates for 2023–24 are yet to be announced. The doctoral stipend for 2022–23 was £19,668 (three and a half years full-time or part-time equivalent for seven years). Levels are likely to rise slightly for 2023–24. Collaborative Doctoral Students also receive an additional stipend of £550. Students can apply for an additional six months stipend to engage in extended development activities such as work placements. See AHRC funding and training for full details.

As a TECHNE student, the selected applicant will have full access to the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership development activities and networking opportunities, joining a cohort of almost 60 students per year from across ten universities in the UK.

Student eligibility

Applicants with either practice and/or theory backgrounds may apply. The proposed PhD student will have a good Master's degree in creative writing, literary studies, library studies, theatre and performance, oral history, education or equivalent experience and skill set in related fields. They should ideally have experience working with communities and an interest in combining archival and theoretical methods with participatory action research or practice research that includes storytelling approaches. Experience of working with /as a storyteller is desirable. Methodological training in qualitative research methods and/or action based and practice research methodologies is desirable. Relevant employment or work-based experience is desirable.

Applicants must satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements and terms and conditions.

Students who are fee assessed as ‘international' are eligible for the stipend to support living costs and tuition fees at the UK rate. UKRI funding will not cover international fees set by universities.

The proposed studentship (subject to selection by the TECHNE Panel) will fund a full-time PhD studentship for three and a half years or part time study for up to seven years (50% FTE and above).

Application process

Please send your expression of interest for this project by email to:

Please title your email ‘CDA' and give the relevant partner institute's name.

Applications should comprise the following:

  • One-to-two page statement outlining your interest in this research project.
  • A copy of your first degree and postgraduate qualifications.
  • A current CV (no more than two pages)
  • A sample of your academic work

Applications must be received by Kingston University no later than 8 January 2023, midnight (UK time).

Interviews for short-listed candidates will take place on Tuesday 17 January.

The selected candidate will then be supported by supervisors to complete a TECHNE application for final submission to TECHNE by Tuesday 21 February 2023.

Results of this second stage competition will be known by May 2023.


Please contact us for more research funding information.