When I first heard about the Human Library, I immediately thought that Buffalo would be a perfect city to establish a chapter. The first Human Library sprouted up in Copenhagen, Denmark. The concept? People as books.
It might sound a bit strange at first, but just think about the human spirit as a book. At this Human Library (called “menneskebiblioteket” in Danish), people can sign up to reserve a person, instead of a book. Then, for half an hour, the two people are able to engage in a discourse, in the hopes of leading to life altering choices and directions.
Incredibly, Human Libraries are now in more than 80 countries. What is even more surprising is that this non-profit initiative (Human Library Organization) has been around for 20 years. The trademarked concept/method was started in the year 2000 by Ronni Abergel, his brother Dany, and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen.
The original exercise proved to be instrumental, with a significant spark, but it didn’t catch fire right off the bat. Over the years it has become more and more accepted and sought after. Today the concept has become somewhat of a phenomenon.
One of the driving factors behind the event-driven initiative was to “challenge people’s perceptions of stereotypes.” Now, 20 years later, this type of humanizing exercise is more important than ever.
Depending on the organizers, these Human Libraries can be permanent or pop-ups. Some of them can start as pop-ups and then become permanent. Human books include nudists, people with autism, soldiers with PTSD, the homeless, and young mothers.
New “books” are always being added to the human library. These books are essentially people who defy stereotypes and are willing to tell their stories, to help others to understand a bigger “more open” picture.
“We always need more books for our library. We have a network of local organizers and ‘book depots’ around the world, that not only recycle our books, but also ensure they are well kept in-between events.” – The Human Library
The more I think about the human experience, and the ways that the Human Library promotes the individual stories, the more I keep coming back to the book Fahrenheit 51 – the scene at the end where we learn that people have become human books, in order to preserve “thought provoking” ideologies within the pages. The Human Library is a different type of take on this premise, but it’s one that is of a similar mindset.
I have reached out the Human Library to see how Buffalo might become a book depot. It will be interesting to see what it’s going to take, and how we can take part in this global movement. Anyone that would like to reach out to me, to discuss the project, can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Charles Deluvio