The Human Library – Borrow a Person instead of a Book

A movement originated in Denmark where you can borrow a person to read a book instead of borrowing a book. In 2000, the idea was to “publish people openly” in order for people to ask questions about others’ lives and experiences and better understand their issues. These Human Library projects are now available in more than 70 countries.

This concept is very simple. It’s that stereotypes can be challenged by hearing real stories. The Human Library is a non-profit that hosts events where readers can borrow books from human beings and engage in conversations they wouldn’t normally have. Each human book on our bookshelf represents a group that is often stigmatized, discriminated, or subject to prejudice due to their diagnosis, beliefs, socio-economic status, and/or ethnic origin.

So, you can sit down with “Alcoholic”, “Autism”, “Bipolar” and “Body Mod Extreme” (someone with extreme body modifications) through every range of human condition imaginable–“Molested”, “Muslim”, “Naturist”, “Polyamorous”, etc–and ask questions, and hear people’s stories. The tagline of the website is “unjudge anyone.”

A Book of The Month is a bookshop and library that operates in the same way as normal. It features people as human books such as The Holocaust Survivor, which can be found in California/the Netherlands, and The Transformista, which can be found at The Human Library in Lima.

There are many practical applications to the project. The University of Glasgow has formed a new partnership to encourage 300 medical students to read in The Human Library and learn the skills necessary to be future doctors.

Lynsay Crawford, University Lecturer, stated that the program will be run every year in Glasgow so that all graduates can learn to ‘unjudge’. This will not only benefit our students, but also their patients and future colleagues. Medical students need to have a wide knowledge base that can be learnt from traditional books, but to be truly effective and compassionate doctors they need to develop more nuanced skills–communication, empathy, listening, reflection–and what better way to achieve that, than through interactions, and connections, with people and their lived experience–the human books.”

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