At This Library, The Books You Read Are Actually Humans

Four rebels with a cause got together in 2000 during The Roskilde Festival in Denmark to put together activities for the festival goers. What they came up with changed the way we read at a library forever. Youngsters Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen and Ronni Abergel were the founders of the idea of a ‘Human Library.’

What is a Human Library?

Instead of checking out books, at a Human Library you “borrow” humans with stories to tell. The concept was designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The movement spread all over the world to countries like Belgium, USA and Australia while India remained blissfully unaware fighting its own battles with orthodoxy and strait jacket like customs. At least until a student at AISFM came across a meme about The Human Library online.

The Human Library comes to India

Harshad Fad was intrigued by this new concept and immediately signed up with the parent organization as he believed India needed to play host to this movement as well. With a little help from the head librarian at his college, Ms. Lyzandra, he succeeded in getting British Council’s interest too. The first time a human library event was held in India was at IIM Indore and Harshad wanted to bring out a fully fledged event at Hyderabad, where he lived.

The search for human books to volunteer for the event involved a search among friends, acquaintances and reaching out to NGO’s to find the best narratives. Of the many topics covered by the Human Library in Hyderabad, is one on Surviving Domestic Violence. It is about Saroja who has been a victim of domestic violence for over 12 years. She took a bold step and approached an NGO and from there on could gather courage to fight back against abuse. Subsequently she got out of the abusive relationship and is now managing her life and taking care of her 2 daughters all by herself. “She is so bold, courageous and positive, which makes us feel so encouraged every time we meet her,” says Harshad.

The book list was finally made up and short descriptions were put down to help readers make a decision.

What to expect at the event

Every reader got around 20 to 30 minutes per book per session. Human Library is a place where difficult questions are expected and answered; hence it is more powerful than just a simple conversation. Sharing stories can be emotionally overwhelming for the narrators. “After each reading session we ask the human books how they feel and if they are emotionally equipped to share more,” Fad said. He currently has the event set to happen at five cities – Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and the national capital.

Organizing this event is as simple as signing up with The Human Library Organization. As the saying goes (updated for political correctness), a single conversation with a wise (wo)man is better than ten years of study.

For more information about the Human Library, visit the organization’s site, or the Human Library in Hyderabad’s Facebook page.

Written by Preethi Sagar

Image credit: Harshad Fad, Human Library in Hyderabad



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