Borrow A Human Book At The Human Library And Share Your Stories

The Human Library

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The Human Library

Borrow A Human Book At The Human Library And Share Your Stories

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As humans, we are really good at categorizing things, including people. The world is complex and organizing things quickly in our brains allows us to make decisions faster. Distinguishing aggressive predators and prey made all the difference in our survival back when we were running around as hunter-gatherers.

Even today, we have kept this structure. These mental shortcuts allow us to associate someone wearing glasses with intellect, or implicitly think that people who are mentally ill are dangerous.

Judging a book by its cover

Stereotyping is inevitable. However, by being aware of our unconscious biases, we have the power to go beyond categorization and understand how it influences us.  

We are also drawn to those who are similar to us or share the same values. Often, we respond more favourably to what we know. When something is unfamiliar, it incites fear and anxiety. Xenophobia refers broadly to the fear of someone who is different from us.

Perhaps because we are afraid that what we do not know can hurt us. 

Politicians often use our natural aversions to their advantage. Fear of ‘the others’ helps win votes and adopt policies that can polarise our world, widening the gap between societies or ethnic groups. A common enemy creates a stronger bond within the group, whether it be a political party, a country, or a race.

What if we could build trust and love instead of fear?

Take 20 minutes to speak with a human book

At the Human Library, you can check out a ‘human book’ who has voluntarily published his or her story. It offers a safe space for dialogue. For those who wish to share their story, as well as the reader who is interested to learn more about someone or a subject. Topics are carefully curated and content is vetted. Subjects are often taboo and stigmas or stereotypes that are all too often left unspoken but which are important issues that need addressing.  

Depression, bipolar disorder, autism, obesity, refugees, migrants, ethnicity, religion, incest, transgender, homosexuality, alcoholics, the homeless, the unemployed… the list continues.

Some ‘human books’ are people we would never normally have the opportunity to speak to so bluntly. Those of us who are curious may not wish to risk offending someone with awkward or embarrassing personal questions. They could be people we may never meet. They could live amongst us, our neighbours or colleagues, close by but still mysterious to us.

The Human Library
The Human Library

The Human Library was created in Copenhagen in 2000 by Ronno Abergel, his brother Dany and his colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen. What started as small pop-up events in schools, libraries and festivals in Denmark has expanded into a global movement. Events have been organised in 85 countries. The dialogues could be one to one or take place in small groups. They also work with corporates to host private events in an effort to encourage diversity and inclusion.

A person chooses to be ‘a book’ because he/she has a personal experience to share and believes his/her story can help others understand a culture, problem or identity. Most have experienced discrimination and prejudice, or faced persecution.

The volunteers are trained for their one-on-one dialogues. They start by introducing themselves and explaining why they volunteered. They reserve the right to refuse if they are not comfortable with the question or with the ‘reader’. This platform gives us a chance to ask hard questions and gain a different perspective. 

The rules for readers? “Respect the book, be curious and bring it back on time in the same condition it was given to you” 

Diversity and Inclusion. Make a Difference. 

We can only be truly free when we, ourselves, do not restrict the freedom of others. 

Consciously or unconsciously, our upbringing, culture and education shape how we see the world and the people around us. If we seek to understand, we will be more likely to find common ground. 

The Human Library poster
The Human Library poster

The Human library approach is effective because it deals with an individual’s own biases and prejudices. Each person and their experience is unique. Each reader’s questions and interests are different. 

We do not need to be discriminated against or be in the minority to be an open book. If we are brave enough to accept and welcome tough questions, we will also earn the right to ask them.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can build trust and love. The concept of the human library is one that we can adapt and follow.

Learn more about human books at https://humanlibrary.org/meet-our-human-books/

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