Human Library - Take out a prejudice

Main entrance to the first Human Library.Settings for a Human Library

A great advantage to the Human Library methodology is that, it is not difficult to adapt to different circumstances. The past years have uncovered a variety of different experiences in changing settings for the event. Choosing the right setting for a Human Library is essential to ensuring the succes of the activity. Organisers need to take into consideration, what facilities are needed, and decide how the target group is best reached. In the past 8 years the Human Library has been tested in a variety of settings, and there are more out there still to be tested. All the described settings below have been confirmed as feasible settings for an event.

The Parliament

Tested in both Denmark and Lithuania recently by national youth councils as part of the European All Different All Equal campaign. The  Human Library offers books to parliamentarians, to draw their attention to the situation of many minorities in society. The last event at a parliament was in january 2008. Typically the organisers of parliamentary library events have been national youth organisations or youth councils.

The Reading Room at Idea Store Library, London.The Public Library

By far the setting that has hosted the most Human Libraries. It is also the fastest ecspanding arena for new organisers. In almost all the countries where the Human Library has been introduced, its been done through a public library. There are many advantages to this setting, and one crucial to most organisers is that it's inexpensive to facilitate in a public library. The sector in general is very enthusiastic, because the Human Library is a great occassion to draw new audiences. Events such as this helps to reaffirm the public library as an integral part of developing community relations and social cohesion. The library becomes a place for meaningful social interaction among its patrons, and this adds some new dimensions to the diversity of activities allready taking place in the public library sector. Without the support from libraries across the world, this idea would not have been able to mulitiply and spread to different countries, like it has. We have yet to see the top of the application abilities within this sector.

The Human Library Crew, Sziget Festival 2003, Budapest.The Festival

The scene for the original Human Library was Roskilde Festival in Denmark, 2000. A place where culture, music and diversity meets to celebrate life. Also a place where there is a strong natural traffic of people, that could take out a book from a Human Library and spend some time in the sun with their own prejudices. At the festival audiences are often open and have their guards down, so it is a fantastic place to stage the event. At another festival setting, with the help of the Council of Europe and the support of the hungarian Sziget festival, organisers have been hosting a seven day Human Library for 6 years consectively. It has helped to boost interest, and in recent years more festivals have made a space for a Human Library in their grounds. In Serbia, Turkey and Portugal major festivals have embraced the concept. There are clear advantages, but also challenges to facilitate an event in the festival setting.

Book in Norwegian Human Library.The School

To our young ones there is no place in their daily life with more stereotyping than schools. It's unavoidable when you bring together large groups of people, that some will be different from others, and so it begins. We could think of a hundred relevant book titles to introduce to students at middle grade and especially high school level. Imagine the teacher beforehand did a presentation of each book available, and the students signing up for 3 books, they want to sit with during the visit to their school. Often students will sit in groups of 3 or 4 with each book and switch every half hour. It's very educational, and when tested as an approach to getting the students interested in say educational and occupational opportunities, it turned out to be a great application possibility. The school setting has an incredible potential, not only to give students a hands on experience with the actual person, but also a novel idea to provide the young readers with an insight to their possible future occupation. (see the Living Career Library adaptation website).

The Book Fair

Similar to the festival but worth mentioning, because in principle it can be transferred to any venue, where there is a large traffic of people, that are not in a big hurry. So metro stations and other commuter hot spots are not good. Time has to be available for the readers to indulge, no matter which venue you decide to stage an event in. The Book Fair in Sweden has been a great succes, and has shown the way for organisers, that want to spice up their exhibition and offer the public something different.

The Human Library Bus Tour 2007The Human Library Bus Tour (travelling library)

Norway was first country to test the travelling library concept, and since then a train has gone through Europe with a Human Library. In Denmark a local organiser hosts a week long bus tour every year. Keeping the books together, and taking them on the road, creates a different dimension to being a book from for example one day events or even seven day festivals. Typically in festivals there are more books, and some only join for a few days while others stay the whole period. On the bus everybody is in it together, and the experience becomes intensified. The outcomes for the books surely match that of their readers. 

The Online Human Library

This is the only setting, that has not been properly tested. And some experiences are mostly from using the online element as a way of reserving the books on loan. A proper virtual Human Library has yet to see the light of day, however something that came close was an adaptation from Denmark titled, "Borrow a muslim". We will follow this area closely, but are also aware that the personal meeting has a bearing on the experience, which cannot be replaced by a webcam. But it will be interesting to have a setup properly tested and evaluated for development purposes and potential uses.

Remember to see the free guide to organisers for more tips on choosing the right setting for your Human Library.

The Corporate Human Library

Workplaces have turned out to be a sector with a great potential for the Human Library approach to relation building. Experiences from several countries have shown that the outcomes of properly prepared events are remarkable. From building new relations between co-workers and stimulating a higher tolerance for each others differences, one of the possible benefits from this setting, is increasing the social cohesion in the workplace and furthering the effectivity of the company. The resources and competences  within the individual worker is more likely to be utilitized in a work environment with accept. Revenue generated from corporate partnership events, are one of the primary sources of income for the Human Library organization

(Upd. 29/01/09)