If people had access to the thoughts of nearly every person on earth, the world would be a wildly different place. A simple conversation is sometimes all it takes to get to know a person and have one's perspective completely altered. At a place such as Copenhagen's Human Library, this is exactly what happens.
Whereas most libraries allow members to check out books, The Human Library allows members to figuratively check out people. Rather than reading a book, visitors to this unique and interactive library event have the chance ot hear the stories of others - often, people suffering from disorders, health ailments, or who generally just have a unique lifestyle that raises questions.
The experience, in itself, is both educational and life-altering. People usually leave having more of an open mind and feeling more humbled than they were when they arrived, and it's a social experiment that has been changing lives.
The History And Start Of The Human Library In Copenhagen
The Human Library got its start pretty humbly as a temporary event, open only eight hours a day for four days. It was started by Ronni Abergel and his brother, Dany, along with their colleaguesAsma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen, and was known as Menneskebiblioteket in Danish. The event started back in 2000 and allowed visitors access to a wide scope of books, all of which featured a range of topics that were intended to challenge their mindsets and perspectives.
The event was an overwhelming success as it had attracted more than one thousand readers who engaged in reading these diverse titles. The impact alone was enough to propel the movement forward and, thus, The Human Library was born.
- Fact: The Human Library is now a registered trademark, and is responsible for assembling thousands of volunteers who wish to be part of this powerful project.
What, Exactly, Is The Human Library, And How Does It Work?
The Human Library describes its organization as "a global innovative and hands-on learning platform" in order to "better [their] understanding of diversity in order to help create more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social, and ethnic differences." This is exactly what one will experience during an educational visit. Each visit is designed to create a safe space and lay down the foundation between two people to connect over a mutual understanding. The conversations that one might have with a living 'book' are capable of unlocking doors, challenging prejudices, diffusing conflicts, and helping encourage and foster greater conversations that the world should be having.
To start the process, visitors are taken to a dialogue room where conversations are private and between those involved - the visitor and the human 'book.' During this time spent with one another, any number of ordinarily taboo topics are suddenly normal conversation, and the social confines that would otherwise restrict the conversation outside of the space are gone. This allows conversations to flow openly and freely, thus challenging everything one may have known prior to stepping into the dialogue room.
The human 'books' themselves come from a variety of backgrounds, leading completely different lives from one another. Visitors might have the chance to speak with someone who struggles with a disorder such as ADHD or has a unique physical disposition, such as extreme body modifications. Human books may also be part of certain communities, whether that be indicative of their orientations or religions, or may have suffered traumatic injuries that differentiate them from the average human. The Human Library now exists in more than 70 countries outside of Denmark, and their events can be found on The Human Library Organization website.
Why The Experience Of Speaking To A Human Book Is So Rewarding
It would not be uncommon for a person to attend a Human Library event and leave having their entire perspective changed. Some testimonials even describe an immense personal gain for people who have walked away with the gift of understanding. According to other reviews on the site, some have left feeling a tremendous sense of having their comfort zones challenged. One of the most impactful pieces of feedback, however, is probably this one:
"Taking a deep breath and approaching another human being you would normally walk past."
A major goal of The Human Library Organization is to help people 'unjudge someone,' and it's a goal they are steadily achieving. Those visiting Copenhagen should be sure to keep an eye out for any potential popup events, especially if they're seeking something extraordinary and life-changing during their visit. Those interested in actively participating as a human book can also sign up with The Human Library Organization.