Is the Human Library most needed for white people?
Although a good idea, it further highlights the lack of diversity in some communities
Imagine walking into a library and “borrowing” a human being’s time instead of loaning a book to the patron. It’s an interesting concept that I just read about on CNN. In the post, “A human book can be an alcoholic, for example, or a Muslim, or a homeless person, or someone who was sexually abused.” I paused over that line multiple times, primarily because in the past 24 hours, I’ve seen all of the above while walking my dog in my own neighborhood.
The North Side of Chicago has a little bit of everybody. Obviously I will not know who has been “sexually abused” from first glance. Those conversations happened as a feature writer for psychology magazines and private conversations with friends from childhood to adulthood. Maybe it is my natural curiosity for people who are not like me (I had 50 pen pals growing up) or maybe it’s from joining groups like Toastmasters, a public speaking group located in 149 countries with 300K clubs. I’ve sat in corporate clubs and LGBTQ+ clubs and community clubs and spent a year hosting a storytelling event in Irish bars. Minus MAGA, I’ve always enjoyed talking to people who I have nothing in common with almost as much as those I do.
Interestingly, the Human Library® has “hosted personal conversations designed to challenge stigma and stereotypes since 2000” and has published at least 1,000 books in more than 80 countries. Created by Ronni Abergel, a Danish human rights activist, the group came about after his “troubled” friend was stabbed in Copenhagen. According to the official website’s description, this is a place where “difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.”
The nonprofit also hosts virtual events, along with in-person discussions in conferences, festivals, libraries, museums, schools and universities, and for the private sector. Although the CNN report states that the Human Library is especially popular in Chicago, I slept straight through it and have no clue why.