FAQ

What is the main goal of this project?
Human Library goal is to help people from different social, professional, religious and ethnic groups to get to know and understand each other.  Human Library is the opportunity to meet different people, openly discuss stereotypes and get rid of prejudices.

Who invented Human Library?
The idea of Human Library has developed by a non-governmental organization “Stop the Violence” initiated by Danish teenagers. Their friend was violently attacked at the street and miraculously he survived. While the young man was in the hospital, his friends thought that ordinary people can reduce the level of violence in society.  That’s how the organization “Stop the violence” was born.  These teenagers created the idea to hold an event that would promote dialogue and understanding between different people who in normal circumstances would have hardly speak to each other.

The first Human Library was held in Denmark in 2000 at music Roskilde Festival and greatly changed the atmosphere of the festival. It also caused a great resonance in the international press (see the main website of the project: humanlibrary.org).

Since then, Human Library has held in more than 60 countries around the world including Canada, U.S., Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, Sweden, Thailand, Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Ireland, England, Bulgaria, Iceland, Austria, Estonia, Australia, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Ukraine, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Russia and Turkey. Most of these events have been held at the festivals, city parks, schools, or public libraries.

What is a Living Book? Is this a printed book, an audio book, a magazine article or a collection of blog posts? Why is it called Living?
Living Book is a person who is willing to share their personal history, experience and knowledge, and respond honestly to the questions of Readers (visitors of Human Library). Books are real members of stigmatized social groups and professions that often experience stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, and are often treated on a basis of public myths.

They are called Books because people can ‘’read’’ them by listening their experiences which can be beneficial for themselves like getting rid of their stereotypes and developing their empathy ability. Also, they are living because of the possibility of live face to face communication.

The Book catalogs vary from county to county, and include members of very different social groups. For example, Living Books that are invited to the Library in different countries include refugees, policemen, priests, transsexuals, psychiatric wards, single travelers, former drug addicts, human right activists, and etc.

Why do you call people Books? It’s offending!
Human Library – is a kind of a social game which makes it easier to allow the communication among different members of society, hardly possible in a daily life. Such a game format (e.g., presence of a specific rules, terms such as Librarians, Book catalogs etc.) makes it easier to overcome the natural awkwardness that occurs when communicating about personal and “uncomfortable” issues with a stranger.

The term Living Book or even just a Book has been used for many years in international practice of Human Library and proved to be efficient and acceptable for most participants of Human Library.

Why Human Library needs live format? What makes it better than Internet format (e. g., communication though blogs or forums)?
Direct face-to-face communication has its own advantages, especially when dealing with stereotypes. Even with close friends, misunderstandings often occur during communication in chats and emails. However, if we had seen these people in person, these misunderstandings would not have occurred, we could have felt their mood, intentions and emotions by watching their facial expressions and recognizing the tone of voice.
In addition, in a face-to-face communication, it is much more difficult to lie or make substantiated statements.

How is communication at Human Library different from a regular communication with representatives of a particular social group?
First, this communication takes place in a safe and regulated environment, within a certain format. Secondly, the Living Books are not imposing their points of view to Readers, unlike what is happening a lot during regular conversations between members of different social groups. Finally, in everyday life, you may not have a possibility to personally and trustfully talk to these people, because maybe you don’t know them. Even you know them; you interact with them only in certain circumstances, which do not involve a real conversation (e.g. police or officials).

How does Human Library work? How is its process organized?
Human Library works the same way as a normal library; Readers come to fill a library card, choose a Book from a catalog and borrow it for reading for some time. Then they return the Book back to the Library, and if they want, they take another one. The only difference is that the Book in Human Library is a real person, while reading is a conversation.

How much time is devoted to reading? How many Books can I read? 
Standard reading session lasts 20 minutes. You can read as many Books as you wish.

How do you ensure the safety of the event?
Human Library Readers have to register and provide their names in order to be able to read a Book. Only visitors, who have agreed the rules of Human Library, can use its services. Librarians and other Human Library volunteers will help in resolving conflicting situations.

Usually, Human Library is a peaceful event which provides a possibility for a friendly and safe dialogue in a comfortable environment for all participants.

What kind of questions can we ask Living Books?
There are no “stupid questions” at Human Library – Living Books will try to sincerely answer all your questions. They are prepared for difficult and naïve questions. They are willing to share their experiences and to discuss Readers’ stereotypes and prejudices calmly. In the most challenging cases, if Readers’ question will seem too personal or offensive, Book has a right to refuse to answer a question and may talk about something else.

Who pays the organizers and Books?
Human Library is a non-profit project throughout the world. All participants, including organizers, Librarians, and Books are working on a volunteer basis. Readers’ participation is also free.

Will you invite famous public people as Living Books?
Human Libraries try to avoid inviting public people since the purpose of the event is to show a variety of ordinary people who live around us, and give the opportunity to see that we actually have a lot in common. A public person may even harm the Human Library; for example, Readers may line up for an autograph, or a public person will attract the attention of journalists, while the other Living Books may be unfairly overlooked.

How can I benefit from Human Library?
Human Library may be useful for you if you want to:
• ask questions members of certain social groups or professions, to learn about their life experiences, feelings and problems in society;
• discuss the stereotypes and get rid of your prejudices against other people;
• get a better understanding of different people, including your own family members, friends, co-workers, and even yourself.

Why do you have so many Books such as gays and other bad people?
This is a great question! By itself it perfectly illustrates the prejudices existing in our society and reveals the need for projects such as Human Library.