Don’t judge a book by its cover…
Libraries are using innovative ideas to attract users, and are pursuing areas of service where they can be essential to people in the age of ever-accelerating social media. One such idea is the Human Library. Its key concept: avoid making judgments based solely on appearances. The Human Library idea was started in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has spread to over 70 countries. The goal is to open conversations between diverse people in a safe environment, to learn about their culture and lives in a non-judgmental or threatening way. The “books” are volunteers who come from all walks of life, ages, genders, lifestyle choices, and are willing to share their life experiences with others in face-to-face or group conversations.
In a recent Penn State University Libraries’ Human Library event, synopses of the participants were posted well in advance of the event day and interested borrowers could read information and sign up to check out the human books. Individuals were pulled from the entire University population of faculty, staff and students. The Paterno library and classrooms housed the “checked out” books and readers for group conversations running 45 minutes in length during the afternoon. That evening, there was a panel of “Bestsellers” and discussions with several of the human books. This panel was live streamed to students, faculty and staff. The Libraries’ Human Library event enhances the University’s All In diversity and inclusion initiative.
For further information, there are several Human Library websites to visit for more information. Some give a brief hint of books in that collection and organizing an event. Others include an invitation for you to share your life experiences and be part of the Human Library. Some sites to explore are Human Library UK, Human Library Chicago, and The Williams College Human Library Project for a variety of collections.