Choosing to Celebrate Rather than Tolerate

As 16 November is the International Day for Tolerance, we pose a simple question:

What, exactly, is tolerance?

Is it a passive acceptance for the practices of other cultures, or rather, can it be an active celebration?

Perhaps everyone can choose for his or herself.

Let’s choose then to celebrate rather than tolerate.

Building Connections

Tolerance is strengthened through building mutual understanding between different cultures and peoples. Therefore, a celebration can be created through deepening this understanding.

Libraries, museums and other memory institutions have a unique role, not only in providing access to culture, but in defining the narratives that helps people connect with it.

This act of storytelling allows for engagement – connecting on a deeper level with other voices, other perspectives and the human-side of our interconnected histories.

Celebrating our differences, what makes us unique, and the stories we have to tell – this is more than tolerance. It is the connection we want to build in the world.

Building Peace in the Minds of Men

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) states:

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.

Education and exposure to culture builds tolerance by providing opportunities for people to connect, share and learn from one another. A library, an archive, a museum or exhibition can be the medium through which these connections are nurtured.

IFLA’s mission to inspire, engage, enable and connect the Library field helps empower all libraries to be this connection-builder in their own communities.

The Human Library

IFLA’s SDG Stories are rich with examples of libraries being spaces for building connections. The “Human Library” in Kazakhstan is one such example.

In this programme, participants from often discriminated-against groups acted as “human books”, allowing others to ask questions to learn about their experiences. The goal is to use storytelling and connection-building to address the issue of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, political opinion, gender, sexual orientation and disability.

In the end, there was a sense of community and support created, and participants felt heard and empowered to continue sharing their perspectives.

No matter their resources, libraries can use their institutions to be the driver in bringing people together to share their stories and build mutual respect.

Four participants and Organisers from the Human Library Pose together

“Human Books and Organizers ” by Marina Poyarkova is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Take Action

We challenge our network not just to tolerate, but to celebrate, share and nurture our diversity, building a stronger and more connected world.

IFLA will continue supporting UNESCO’s mission to build peace through education, science and culture during the 40th Session of the General Conference. Read more about our participation here: Key Issues for Libraries at the UNESCO General Conference.

2 Responses to “Choosing to Celebrate Rather than Tolerate”


  • This is wonderful to see Nazarbayev University highlighted for tolerance and building peace! It has been a goal of ours at NU, with the Library, as well as with the Consortium of Gender Scholars based at the University, to be role models for UNDP goals focusing on equality as essential for long term success. For a related article published in IFLA about this work, you can check out our work with a former librarian at NU, Katie Spires, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0340035217751960

    • Thank you for the comment and related article Anna! NU’s project was an excellent example to highlight for the International Day of Tolerance.

Leave a Reply