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?

Share Your Reflection



I would like to be able to talk with people from different religious points of view. This seems like safe environment to help promote understanding without worrying if it was appropriate to ask questions.

I'm also "recovering from (not-quite-fatal) depression"...but seem to be heading towards the "near-fatal." Unfortunately depression is me-centered. So a human-book I might like to check out would be perhaps be a monk, one who's devotion is *not* to self but to other.

Gosh, what a wonderful idea. We need one of these in New York City.

I would like to check out a human book - what a fantastic idea, not even sure how to phrase it - I'd like to get to know Islamic women of all ages who wear the burkha and live that lifestyle.  

An encyclopedia is a book or set of books designed to have more in-depth articles on many topics. A book listing words, their etymology, meanings, and other information is called a dictionary. A book which is a collection of maps is an atlas.
A more specific reference book with tables or lists of data and
information about a certain topic, often intended for professional use,
is often called a handbook. Books which try to list references and abstracts in a certain broad area may be called an index, such as Engineering Index, or abstracts such as chemical abstracts and biological abstracts.