A WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
The Human Library™ is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.
The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers.
A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.
THE ORIGIN OF THE HUMAN LIBRARY
The Human Library or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 as a project for Roskilde Festival by Ronni Abergel and his brother Dany and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen.
The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes and so they did. More than a thousand readers took advantage leaving books, librarians, organisers and readers stunned at the impact of the Human Library.
THE EARLY YEARS – STOP THE VIOLENCE
Once upon a time in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a young and idealistic youth organisation called “Stop The Violence”.
This non-governmental youth movement was self initiated by the youngsters Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen and Ronni Abergel from Copenhagen after a mutual friend was stabbed in the nightlife (1993). The brutal attack on their friend, who luckily survived, made the group decide to try and do something about the problem. To raise awareness and use peer group education to mobilize danish youngsters against violence. In a few years time the organization had 30.000 members all over the country.
In 2000 Stop The Violence was encouraged by then festival director, Mr. Leif Skov, to develop some activities for Roskilde Festival. Events that would put focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and help to build positive relations among the festival visitors. The Human Library was born, as a challenge to the crowds of Northern Europes biggest summer festival.
THE REASONING BEHIND THE METHODOLOGY
One of the main concerns of the creators inventors was what would happen if people would not get the point? Or if the audience just simply did not want to be challenged on their prejudices? Well given that there was a total of 75 books available, the conclusion was that with so many different people together in a rather small space for a long time, then they are bound to start reading each other if no readers come. And so it was to become. Before the first reader could take out a book, the talks where already going on extensively and the feeling of something very special was in the air. The policeman sitting there speaking with the graffiti writer. The politician in discussions with the youth activist and the football fan in a deep chat with the feminist. It was a win-win situation and has been ever since.
CRUCIAL PARTNERS IN THE DEVELOPMENT
One of the creators, Ronni Abergel, realising the potential of the idea, decided after the first event, to begin to work to promote the idea to potential new organizers. Since then he has founded the Human Library Organization, produced a guide to new organizers with the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Council of Europe. Travelled to many countries to help train new local organizers, plan launch events and present the idea to interested organizations and public authorities. Today it is estimated that the Human Library has been presented in more than 7o countries around the world, most of them in partnership with local organizers.
COST EFFICIENT ACTIVITY
Further to having good partners to realize the project. The Human Library has another advantage to organizers around the world. Its not very expensive and can be organized no matter how big or small your budget is. The biggest ressource needed to facilitate a Human Library is time and idle hands to do the tasks. And due to this great quality it has been possible to stage events in a wide range of countries and with very little funding. This feature has made it possible to present Human Libraries in Romania, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Italy, Holland, Slovenia, Belgium, Portugal and Australia – to mention a few.