The term “human library” inspires visions of books bound in skin and other terrible creations. The reality of the human library is a bit different.
In 2000, a group of people in Copenhagen developed The Human Library (Menneskebiblioteket in Danish) for the Roskilde Festival. The library featured over 50 titles that had more than 1000 readers during the festival. But that still doesn’t explain what made this library “Human”.
In The Human Library, books are not bound sheets of paper; they are people who tell their stories to the readers. The project describes it as “real people are on loan to readers.” The theory is that the library enables interactions between people who would otherwise never speak to one another. Books involve different health issues, religious stances, economic positions, and other life experiences. Through discussions with human books, people have the opportunity to overcome their prejudices or at the very least, to acknowledge their mutual humanity. They also allow individuals to learn about topics that may be outside of their personal knowledge.
If you are interested in going to a Human Library event, check out the upcoming events page. Human Library sessions will be occurring in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Poland throughout the month of November. (I believe that Australia also has recurring Human Library events though they are not listed on the main Human Library website.) You can also get a sneak peek of some of the human books by going to the Meet Our Books page.
I find this kind of library fascinating, and would love to hear from people who have done anything similar. I’ve never stumbled across anything like this in the wild, but we need it now more than ever.