Your Life as an Open “Human Book”

Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 7:07 am

Your Life as an Open “Human Book”

Human Library
The catalogue of “books” at the Human Library in the London Public Library in Canada.

“I’m talking about things to people which I’ve never spoken about in my entire life. And I actually feel good…”
Joe, a “human book about depression”

Last November, the Toronto Public Library launched a Human Library project. With people becoming increasingly digitalized, the Human Library concept aims to promote tolerance and understanding through the face-to-face telling of stories. Initiated in Copenhagen a decade ago, patrons check-out people whom they wouldn’t normally interact with in their day-to-day lives and talk to them for half an hour. They ideally gain insight into what it’s like to be them.
In Toronto, for example, over 200 participants got to dialogue with, ask questions to, and even grill (if they wanted) a police officer, a comedian, a monk, and a model, among other human books.
Last March, The Guardian captured a portion of a British human library day on video. Besides the image of a woman talking to a punk about his values, I was touched by a gentleman, in this case a “book” about recovering from near-fatal depression, describing how important it was to him just to have the chance to speak.
I’m curious what sort of human book you would most want to check out for half an hour?

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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