You’ve checked out a book from a library. You’ve probably also checked out a DVD or a CD. Maybe even a magazine. There’s also those computers you can book time on. But have you ever checked out a person?
The Human Library is an initiative that will let you do just that.
The Human Library was started in 2000 by a Danish youth organization called Stop the Violence. The goal is to reduce prejudice and promote dialogue by using the library to “check out” a person that you can have a conversation with, ask questions, explore new ideas. And it will be happening in Nova Scotia for first time this October. Acadia University’s Vaughn Memorial Library will be hosting a Human Library event with the Annapolis Valley Library System.
According to the Acadia University student newspaper, the Athenaeum, “during the event, participants will be able to “borrow” a volunteer community member, also called a living book, for about 30 minutes. In the given time period, “readers” can ask the living book any question they’d like.”
Sounds pretty neat. The planning committee, headed by Communications and Outreach Librarian Pamela Maher, is hoping to get participants to “shatter their assumptions” and “embrace difference” by connecting library users with members of their community they might not normally interact with. Dakin McDonald, a fourth-year student on the planning committee, described it as “a license to have one-on-one conversations with people we don’t know.” If you’re not convinced, here’s some background info about the human library from the group’s website:
The Human Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding. The main characteristics of the project are to be found in its simplicity and positive approach.
In it’s initial form the Human Library is a mobile library set up as a space for dialogue and interaction. Visitors to the Human Library are given the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan”; this latter group being extremely varied in age, sex and cultural background.
The Human Library enables groups to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner. It is a concrete, easily transferable and affordable way of promoting tolerance and understanding.
It is a “keep it simple”, “no-nonsense” contribution to social cohesion in multicultural societies.
I think it’s a great way to use the library as a place to get people talking. And with a slightly adjusted purpose, the Human Library could transfer really well to archives. A Human Archives event could bring community members – donors, descendants of donors, people who are otherwise documented in your collections – to the archives to have one-on-one conversations with users. It would be a great low-cost outreach event that could contribute to people’s understanding of archival collections in their community.
Food for thought. I’d just be nervous about the late fees…