‘Human Library’ launched

Folks browsing the shelves at the Nelson Public Library one Saturday in March could find themselves “borrowing” a person.

Folks browsing the shelves at the Nelson Public Library one Saturday in March could find themselves “borrowing” a person.

The Nelson Library launches its first Human Library on Saturday, March 18. The library is calling for expressions of interest from people willing to be human “books,” with a deadline of February 28.

The Human Library began in Copenhagen in 2000 by a youth organization called Stop the Violence. The group wanted to create a safe place for conversation between individuals who have been exposed to prejudice or stigma, and interested members of the community in order to dispel myths and create understanding. The project has spread, and is now worldwide.

“Like any other community, Nelson is not immune to these issues,” says staff member and project coordinator Anne DeGrace. “There are residents here who feel misunderstood, judged, or dismissed. This is a great project for our community, one we hope to offer annually.”

Books are people who have a story to tell that could help to dispel assumptions or foster understanding. Human Libraries have offered “books” with titles such as “Homeless”, “Trans-gendered”, “Wiccan”, “Bipolar”, “Living with an Addiction”, “Refugee”, or “Down’s Syndrome”, among many other possibilities. Some Libraries have offered books with unusual occupations or exceptional stories, but all with an aim of creating understanding.

A collection of five or six books will be available for people to check out in the morning of March 18, with a different collection available in the afternoon. Each borrower may check out up to two “books” for 15 minutes, and each “book” may be checked out up to six times. There will be suggested questions to get the ball rolling, and a simple code of conduct to keep things respectful.

Once selected, “books” will be asked to attend an orientation evening where they’ll meet other “books” and get to ask questions. They need to be available for “check out” during a two-hour session in either the morning or afternoon of March 18 for up to six enlightening conversations. There will be a lunch served between sessions so the “books” can chat amongst themselves and compare notes.

“It should be an unforgettable experience for everyone who participates,” says DeGrace.

People who think they would like to be a “book” or who simply have questions should call or email DeGrace at 505-5684 or adegrace@nelson.ca. More information about the Human Library organization can be found at humanlibrary.org.

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