The Human Library Project has been hailed as an incredible social experiment that promotes human rights and social cohesion. In this human library, the books are the ‘living and breathing’ people who share their experiences through conversations with the readers. This project, which was started in Copenhagen, Denmark, aims to challenge social biases and promote empathy by interactions and open conversations.
No to biases
Ronnie Abergel, his brother Dani, Asma Mouna and Christopher Erikson who are the founders of the ‘Stop Violence’ foundation had started the Human Library Organization, around twenty-two years ago in Denmark. To those who asked them about the advantage of opening up lives in front the readers who seek books, they said, “The aim is to promote social cohesion among people of different ideals and beliefs. This would eliminate prejudice, misconceptions and hatred. Moreover, it will encourage them to realize that the world belongs to all and to live with tolerance.”
‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ has been the motto of the human library organization. It reminds us not to merely trust what you hear or see, but to develop better understanding after knowing about the lives of many people and their vast experiences.
How it works?
The Human Library Organization has its branches in around 85 countries across the globe. Until two years ago, before the COVID-19 outbreak, hundreds of human books had opened up their ‘pages’ in front of keen readers. It was in Australia, in 2006, that the first permanent human library was opened. In other countries, including India, human library events and programs are regularly organised. The first step to take part in these events is to register as a reader.
We could then choose the human books from various backgrounds and experiences as per our preference. They will speak for thirty minutes, followed by an interactive section where the ‘book’ and the ‘reader’ can engage in meaningful conversations.
The Human Library Organization hopes that such open dialogues would erase the barriers, prejudices and biases that exist between people. They envision these revolutionary ‘reading’ to create a tolerant and empathetic world that has no place for war, violence and unrest.
Who are human books?
Anyone who is willing to open up about their lives and experiences and can accept criticisms with an open mind can become a volunteer with the Human Library Organization.
The volunteers come from various groups like victims of wars and riots, migrants, survivors of gang rape and assault, teenage mothers, autistic persons, alcohol addicts, unemployed, persons with disabilities, people who have converted to other religions, soldiers, those who suffer from mental health issues, HIV positive patients, homosexuals and transgender persons. As soon as you log into the website humanlibrary.org, their core idea ‘We Publish People as Open Books’ flashes on your screens.
Human libraries in India
Andaleeb Qureshi is credited for introducing the concept of the human library in India. After completing her Chemical Engineering, Andaleeb worked for years in the pharmaceutical industry. She came to know about the Human Library during one of her international trips, to unwind from her hectic career.
She then introduced the human library, in Mumbai, in 2017 along with 20 social workers. Even though human library events are held at major cities like Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Indore, Mumbai is the main centre. Andaleeb says that the human library aims to create a sense of empathy and fraternity among people by bringing them together to engage in meaningful conversations and dialogues.