In what can be seen as an ingenious idea to make this world a better place, Denmark houses a human library to borrow… what else, humans. After all, why read books or Internet articles to better understand people or concepts when someone can sit down with you and explain?!
The Human Library — that came into existence in 2000 — is the brainchild of Ronni Abergel, who did a litmus test of the idea during the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen the same year. Abergel decided to set it up permanently when he found that the response to the ‘library’ and its impact were both overwhelmingly positive.
So, how does it work? Just like you pick up a book to read on a subject, at the Human Library, you borrow a person to converse. For instance, you want to read on autism or on what’s life of a Syrian refugee, you can borrow an autistic person or a refugee, ask questions and even discuss the subject in detail with that person — holding a two-way dialogue.
“The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered,” explains the website.
This is a place where you can find a soldier suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), an unemployed person, someone who is homeless, a deafblind person, people who are brain-damaged, suffer from alcoholism, or are polyamorous, even a young single mother… the list is exhaustive. Imagine living the pages of a crisp book in real life and not just being a mute bystander.
“The policeman sitting there speaking with the graffiti writer. The politician in discussions with the youth activist and the football fan in a deep chat with the feminist. It was a win-win situation and has been ever since,” Abergel says.
Since its inception, the Human Library has spread to more than 70 countries over 16 years, including the US, Poland, Canada, Ukraine, Italy; there are plans to open branches in South Africa, Sudan, Chile and Israel by 2016-end.