Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover
The Human Library™ concept is a library that lends people rather than books. The ‘books’ are volunteers who have experienced trauma, social exclusion or stigma, and they are ‘borrowed’ by ‘readers’ who ask the books questions about their experiences in a supportive and safe environment. It’s a healing process of sharing, learning and hope.
A framework of understanding
The idea is simple and intuitive and is based on the notion that one-to-one conversations will allow a personal experience of sharing, questioning and reflection that can radically shift perceptions. People who have taken part in these events elsewhere have reported that they can be profound experiences for all concerned.
Where it all began
The Human Library™ is an international organisation and movement that first started in Copenhagen in 2000 with the aim to challenge prejudice against social contact among people. Since then, the concept has spread around the world as a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices and promote understanding, empathy and support through dialogue.
How it works
On entering the library, you can browse the catalogue of human ‘books’ and ‘titles’ that are available. As per a conventional process, you then ask the librarian to arrange to borrow a specific title and he or she will then introduce you to your ‘book’. The guidelines of the interaction are read out, and you will be left to have a conversation. After your session ends, you can choose to borrow another ‘book’ if you would like.
The Human Library™ is a place where real people are on loan to readers. It’s a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered. The idea is that you sit down with a title of your choosing and ask them questions from your heart. The conversations are held in a safe place where stories can unfold and people really explore the ‘titles’.
What topics are covered?
It varies from ‘library’ to ‘library’, but topics can range from matters of personal injury, trauma survivors, abuse, homelessness, the stigma associated with being a single mother, HIV, brain injuries, unemployed and much more.
Are you the next Bestseller?
Cape Town and Johannesburg have each hosted a Human Library™ event and are busy filling up their depots with great topics and wonderful people who can answer the many questions that readers have for them. If you would like to become a ‘title’, contact the Book Depot Manager in Cape Town, or join the effort through the Human Library™ South Africa Facebook Page. You can also read more about this global initiative for social change at humanlibrary.org