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Human Library

This guide serves as in introduction to the Human Library and provides guidance on how to host a Human Library event.

What is the Human Library?

The Human Library is a non-profit international organization based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The aim of the organization is to promote inclusion and diversity by challenging stereotypes and discrimination. The organization actively encourages people not to judge a book by its cover through human books (volunteers) who have honest and open discussions about their unique experiences with an audience (their readers) in a safe environment. According to Ronni Abergel, "There are great books hidden in most of us", and this is a chance for those books to be read by others and find their spot on the bestsellers list.

The books are all volunteers who have experienced some form of discrimination or abuse and are ready to tell their stories to anyone interested. They are trained to be books - they are great ambassadors or role models for future groups with similar problems

The Human Library was started in 2000 by brothers Ronni and Dany Abergel, and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen at Roskilde Festival, Copenhagen. They belonged to a local NGO group called Stop the Violence and conceived this idea after their friend was killed. It originally began as an event to combat violence but has evolved into an international platform for preventing social injustice and discrimination. There were more than 1000 participants and over fifty book titles at this event which spanned four days. Although it was successful, progress was rather slow at first. In 2008, the concept reached USA and Canada and since then has been growing rapidly with over 85 countries participating at this time.

The Human Library works with organizations like the IMF and big corporations like Daimler, Heineken, Ebay, and Microsoft to educate workers, increase diversity and tolerance, and promote inclusive work environments.

How Does it Work?

The Human Library is very much like a regular library where people go to check out books. The only difference is that the books are all human volunteers who have opted to speak about their experiences openly to an interested audience and answer any questions they are asked. Each volunteer is a book on a particular topic. Interested readers can check out a human book for an allotted length of time at a designated place (the time and place will be stipulated by the organizers) and have frank discussions about the topic. Thirty minutes of borrowing time is the norm. The space selected should be comfortable and provide enough privacy for open and honest discussions. Readers can ask questions which the human books will answer as best they can. When the reader is done with the book, they can return the book and check out another that is available.

Group Sessions
It is possible for a book to have more than one reader at a session. When time is a factor, a book can be read by a small group of no more than four or five readers in the time provided.

Renewals

If a reader wishes to spend more time with a book, the book will have to go back to the designated spot to be renewed provided no one else wants to read the book.