This Library Lets You “Borrow” Humans Instead of Books

Empowering conversations and deep understanding, the Human Library invites people to become 'books' that open worlds of diverse perspectives. It challenges prejudices with every story shared.

History of The Human Library

The library, a sanctuary where diverse individuals converge, signifies a realm of inclusivity and enlightenment. It's within these hallowed halls that Ronni Abergel conceptualized an innovative extension of this ethos: the Human Library. Founded 21 years ago, this nonprofit endeavor aimed to transcend stereotypes and foster empathy through interactive storytelling. Fast forward to 2021, and the Human Library has evolved into a dynamic force for societal transformation.

The Human Library logo and slogan
Photo Credit: The Human Library

Abergel's inspiration stemmed from the inherent inclusivity of libraries, where individuals from all walks of life find solace and knowledge. In a recent interview with CNN, he elucidated on the library's unparalleled ability to embrace everyone, irrespective of social status or background. This inclusivity laid the groundwork for the Human Library's unique approach to combating prejudice and discrimination.

Bridging Divides and Cultivating Empathy

In the realm of the Human Library, conventional literary roles are subverted. Here, individuals become "books," offering their lived experiences and perspectives for readers to engage with. Titles such as "Transgender," "Disabled," or "Homeless" serve as entry points for dialogue, challenging readers to confront their preconceived notions and biases. Despite the simplicity of these labels, they catalyze profound conversations, bridging seemingly insurmountable divides.

How Does it Work?

Facilitated by the Human Library's structured format, conversations delve into deeply personal territory within a limited timeframe of thirty minutes. Strangers engage in candid discussions on topics ranging from faith and activism to polarizing issues like vaccination. Through these exchanges, both readers and books transcend societal labels, recognizing the shared humanity that unites them.

The Human Library slogan shows people having conversations in the background.
Photo Credit: Human Library Organization on Instagram

Katy Jon Went, a coordinator of the Human Library in the United Kingdom, articulates the transformative potential of this initiative. In her reflection, she underscores the pervasive nature of societal categorization, which often obscures individuals' humanity beneath superficial labels. Through the Human Library, Went contends, participants confront their own biases and embrace the multifaceted nature of human existence.

Benefits of The Human Library

The impact of the Human Library extends beyond mere conversation; it leaves an indelible mark on participants long after the sessions conclude. A study conducted in April highlighted the enduring positive effects of Human Library sessions, with participants recalling their experiences vividly months later. This serves as a testament to the profound impact of genuine human connection in challenging ingrained prejudices.

Two women hugging each other during The Human Library event.
Photo Credit: University of Rochester River Campus Libraries

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Human Library has adapted and thrived, transcending geographical boundaries through virtual platforms like Zoom. Its reach has expanded exponentially, with numerous locations across the United States and corporate entities like Microsoft integrating it into diversity training programs. The development of a dedicated app further democratizes access to this transformative experience, ensuring that the Human Library's impact continues to resonate globally.

Do You Desire to be a Book?

For those inspired to contribute their stories to the Human Library, the opportunity beckons. The organization actively seeks new "books" to enrich its collection, amplifying marginalized voices and fostering understanding. In a world besieged by hate and prejudice, the Human Library offers a beacon of hope through the simple yet profound act of listening.

A photo shows a list of Today's Books at the Human Library written on a blackboard.
Photo Credit: Human Library Organization on Instagram

As societal divisions continue to widen, the Human Library stands as a testament to the power of empathy and dialogue in effecting meaningful change. In embracing the diverse tapestry of human experiences, it challenges us to transcend our biases and embrace our shared humanity. In a world yearning for connection and understanding, the Human Library offers a pathway towards a more compassionate and inclusive future.

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