Professional Housewife. Aggressive Workaholic. Recovering Anorexic. These are all words we use to label certain people in society, slowly closing them in into a box in which they might not belong, or grow out of eventually. In 2000, “The Human Library” originated in Denmark with the goal to fight prejudice and giving people the opportunity to hear the stories of people they would have probably never met otherwise. Well, how does it work? Library visitors can go to the “Book Shelf”, filled with volunteers ready to be “checked out.” Each volunteer gives themselves a title, such as, “Olympic Athlete”, “A Questioning Christian”, or “Fat Woman.” While you can’t take these books home, visitors get an invaluable half hour to listen to these amazing, personal stories.
The individuals who volunteer as human books are usually people with certain backgrounds, stories, or perspectives that give them a particular stereotype in society. Through honest and open conversation, the Human Library seeks to break through the social barriers that we have built and give people the opportunity to challenge their prejudices and thoughts towards any particular type of person.
In the 15 years since the first Human Library launched in Denmark, this idea has taken the world by a quiet storm. These libraries are a key to social understanding and cohesion, yet they are still not as known as they should be. I recently found out even my alma mater, Loyola Marymount has been hosting them while I was enrolled there – something I had no idea about even thought I spent most of my time in the library. You can search for the nearest Human Library near you here.
Go on now – go open your mind and shake your reality. No library card needed.
Featured photo credit: University of Sussex via flickr.com