This is just great. The Living Library. You borrow people not books. Yep, really. It’s an idea out of Scandinavia. Instead of borrowing a book, you can borrow a person for a 30 minute chat. An east London library has 26 “human books” available. The aim is to confront and breakdown stereotypes. You can “borrow” a Muslim; a police officer; a person suffering mental health issues; a gay guy; or a young person expelled from school.
So the stereotypes might be religious fanatic; corrupt; unstable; promiscuous; rebellious and so on. It’s about having frank and rich conversations with people and learning about different cultures or ways of living. It’s about the “borrower” offering up what misgivings or fears they might have of a stereotype and the “human book” responding.
Violence, hatred and racial issues often occur when there is misunderstanding, ignorance and cultural insensitivity. Listening to the narrative of another person who is entirely different from you is a powerful experience. The Living Library challenges preconceptions through promoting dialogue.
The Living Library was started by a Danish anti-violence campaigner, Ronni Abergel, who has taken the concept to 12 countries, including Australia where the Richmond-Tweed library seems to have embraced it with the slogan “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover”.
I wonder how the “human books” feel. I’d be worried I’d be left on the shelf with no-one interested in speaking to me!
If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, check out the Living Library Organizer’s Guide on Amazon.