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Human Library

Books on the Nightstand
Books on the Nightstand

I recently learned that books don’t have to be hard cover, soft cover or digital! Have you heard of “human books”? The concept started in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark as a way of overcoming prejudice and has spread literally around the world. I read about just such an event in Florida where rather than go in to the library to check out a book, you could “check out” a “human book”, spend 15-20 minutes hearing that person’s story, then ask questions for another 10 minutes. What a fantastic interactive event for just about anyone who has a curious streak and wants to have a dialog with their “book”, and not just a one way reading experience! Here’s how one such organization, Urban ReThink, describes how you can become a human book:

“If you have a story of a unique personal experience or a fictional story which you would enjoy sharing, or if you would be willing to serve as a reference on any topic of your choosing, consider participating as a "human book." Human books are regular people like you and me who are open and ready to share their experiences and knowledge with others."

Here are the three types of human books you can become along with some examples:

Autobiographical - This human book tells a story based on a particular experience they lived. It could be anything from a silly story about a crazy misadventure with your friends, to a significant story of a challenge you've overcome, to the story of how you opened your own business.

Fiction - This human book tells a story which is fictional but it must be told as if they are the character in the story who is speaking about their life. It could be the story in the day of the life of a boot as told by the boot itself.

Reference - This human book has knowledge on a particular topic. When checked out, the "reader" may ask them specific questions or ask for a nutshell overview of said topic. For example, if the reference book was on photography, the reader could ask them how to best photograph their pets or they could ask how a camera works in a nutshell. These human books need not be experts and have all of the answers, but it is important to be able to suggest how a reader may be able to find the answer they seek.

As explained in this video from Acadia University Vaughan Library, it’s a way to have access to people you would not normally meet and interact with in your everyday life.

What a fascinating concept! And one that can be universally explored and used in a variety of settings. Click here to see where it all started in Denmark.