Suppose you could go to the library and instead of reading a book, you could talk to someone for a half hour or so. You could talk to an alcoholic to better understand what alcoholism is and does to people, you could talk to someone in a wheelchair, to a holocaust survivor… That’s the Human Library. The idea is to create dialogue and get people to avoid stereotypes or overcome them in a safe environment. In fact the sweatshirt they sell puts it succinctly, Unjudge Someone. It is headquartered in Copenhagen where it was started in 2000 by 4 young people. It began as what they call an event, in this case it went on for 4 days for 8 hours each and was very successful. Although the early years were slow, the idea took hold. One of the ways it did was that Ronni Ebergel one of its founders began the Human Library Organization which helped set up human libraries in other countries. It is now on 6 continents and in over 80 countries, including Kenya and Botswana. It’s a non profit of course in whatever country it is and it is staffed by volunteers. The books, or more accurately the people who become the books are volunteers too.
It’s such a magnetic idea. It makes one want to make sure one’s own library can participate and include human books. It’s not only that it can be a powerful and easy way to open people’s horizons and thus tear down the barriers of prejudice, it’s also that its very presence feeds our creativity. It reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and the land of the book people where each person memorized a book and embodied it. We each have something to share or give based on our experience and the human library invites us to do so.