After just a month of preparations, as part of the campus-wide celebrations of the International Women’s Day, we ran the first edition of the Human LibraryTM here at the Martial Rose Library. It was a huge success, and for four hours the Library Training Room was buzzing with prejudice-busting conversations!
Human Library is an international equalities movement, which started with a really simple idea: just as any other library, it connects books with readers. The only difference is that ‘books’ are real people, and ‘reading’ is a conversation. Since the first edition, organised at the Rotskilde rock festival in Denmark in 2000, the Human Library events have been organised on five continents, in countries as diverse as Tunisia, Mexico, Poland, Estonia, Belarus, Thailand, New Zealand and the Phillipines.
A reader coming to the Human Library selects from a list of available titles and can then engage in an honest conversation, where direct questions are allowed and expected. Each of the titles reflects aspects of identity which invoke prejudices and biases; previous editions included titles such as ‘Unemployed’, ‘Homeless, ‘Refugee’, ‘Single Mother’, ‘Pagan’, ‘Disabled’, ‘Childless by Choice’, and ‘Homeless’.
What happens next is a conversation which can transform both the reader and the Human Book. Having a direct, honest dialogue with somebody very different from us can help dispel myths and prejudices, see common ground and similarities, but also understand that some differences are impossible to reconcile.
The feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Readers were saying ‘I’ve learned so much!’, ‘The atmosphere was great’ and ‘Please organise it again’. One suggestion for improvement, which kept coming back in feedback, was: ‘Can we have more Books!’ The Human Books were also saying that the conversations have changed them as well. One of them commented: ‘you’re never really the same after the conversation’s finished’.
Big thanks to all the Human Books and Human Library Staff volunteers, it would not have been possible without you!
We are already making plans for the second, bigger and better edition of the Human Library next year! If you’re interested in being the Human Book, get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org