At The Human Library you can borrow books, just like at any other library. However, the difference is that the “books” are living people with personal stories and experiences from their own life.
Every “book” is drawn from a group in society who are negatively marginalized or targeted with (or vulnerable to) prejudice and discrimination because of their identity, lifestyle, occupation, social status, religious belief, sexuality, ethnic origin or similar. The Human Library believes that, while everyone has prejudices, not everyone has the opportunity to find out whether what we believe about other people is true. That is the core of what The Human Library offers: a safe place to meet our prejudices and to learn to un-judge someone.
Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Human Library is an organization that strives to build empathy, respect and understanding for the diversity in society. By creating a safe space for dialogue, where challenging and taboo subjects can be discussed in the open without being condemned, The Human Library provides room for conversation. It’s a place where the reader can sit down for 30 minutes for a one-on-one conversation with a complete stranger and ask honestly, from a place of empathy and respect, to learn something about the subject and the title they carry.
The Human Library was developed by journalist and social entrepreneur Ronni Abergel and his colleagues from the organization “Stop Volden” (Stop the Violence), as part of the organization’s activities for a big Danish festival in the year 2000. The first Human Library was open eight hours a day, four days in a row, and readers could choose between 50 different titles. The broad selection of books gave plenty of opportunity to challenge prejudices, and more than a thousand readers took part in the event. This convinced books, librarians, readers and organizers alike that The Human Library has the potential to change society.
While The Human Library Organization is headquartered in Copenhagen, the organization has book depots all over the world – in India, Australia, the UK and the US to name a few, and is present in more than 85 countries across Asia, Africa, Oceania, North and South America and Europe. In addition, it’s currently developing an app in an effort to create a digital learning platform that will expand the reach of The Human Library’s learning experiences across the globe. It will address cultural, religious, social and ethnic differences by offering direct conversations with people experiencing stigma, discrimination or prejudice, and challenge stereotypes.