Take a Book Out at a Human Library

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.

—Vera Nazarian

When was the last time you heard a good story about someone’s life? One that lingered and made an impression on you. One that made you feel the same way you do after putting down a great book. Have you heard about The Human Library Project?

The Human Library Project subscribes to the idea that the best “books” are actually people, and that people who share their stories with others are the key to breaking down barriers and creating a better world.

The Library

The Human Library Organization (HLO) was created in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 by Ronni and Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, and Christoffer Erichsen. The original HLO event featured over fifty different human “books” and was open eight hours a day for four straight days.

A human book is a person who volunteers to represent a community of people that has been stereotyped and, based on their personal experiences, can answer questions from “readers” to help challenge what is being said/told/understood about a given community. Books help shed light on the facts as they know them. Books are not political or on a mission when they are read, but rather able to surrender to the agenda of the reader and allow them control of the conversation during a 30-minute book reading session.

The broad selection of human books at that first session provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes. More than a thousand readers took advantage, many becoming their own versions of a human book. Librarians, organizers, and readers were stunned at the reception and impact of the Human Library.

Today, the HLO operates as a non-profit in 85 countries to better our understanding of diversity in order to help create more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social, and ethnic differences.

The HLO also offers diversity, equity, and inclusion training for companies that wish to better incorporate social understanding within their workforce, as well as grow their cultural awareness for deeper partnerships with clients.

The Ask

Organizations like HLO and Penn State’s World in Conversation advocate for open dialogue as a key to breaking down the barriers at the root of many of the challenges we face as a global community.

But the problems aren’t always as far away as the other side of the world. In sharing the story of the HLO I’m asking you to consider what you could learn if you chose read a new book, independent of any formal HLO program. And what impact could you make by becoming your own human book for someone else? Our stories do more to connect us than divide us when we’re willing to tell them, and when others are willing to listen.

In fact, that’s why I wrote Being Chief and Casey’s Kite. So that more people could hear my stories and then make an impact of their own.

Why not find a new book? You might be surprised what you learn.