14 May, 2018

The Human Library: Read humans, fight stereotypes

When we move to another country, we all have preconceptions towards local people, and how the local people perceive us. Some are positive, some are negative. The Human Library is a non-profit organization that challenges us to change stereotypes and prejudices towards others. 

As an avid reader, I came across the Human Library while looking for libraries in Sweden. However, in a Human library you won’t find books, but people who are willing to share their story to challenge our prejudices and stereotypes towards them.

The idea of this non-profit organization was born in Denmark in early 2000. Founded by Ronni Abergel it has spread to more than 70 countries such as Iceland, Finland, US, Norway, Italy, Holland, Slovenia, Belgium, UK, Portugal or Australia.

How does it work?

The “book” volunteers to share his personal experience and the “reader” feels secure to ask questions in a friendly conversation. The idea is to realise we have more things in common than we think, that there’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of but our own prejudices and stereotypes.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an expression that fits perfectly for the Human Library.

Volunteers come from religious minorities, races, victims of sexual abuse, refugees, people with HIV, alcoholics, homeless, transgender, disabled, single mothers, people with tattoos… in fact, any person who falls outside the preconceived “norm” of our society.

When is the next event in Sweden?

There are no permanent Human Libraries. The events are organized by volunteers and last a few days.

In Sweden, the latest events took place the 24th of February in Östersunds and the 23rd of April, in Mälmo. So, stay tuned through their Facebook page to see the upcoming events.

You are also welcome to organize an event! You need to complete the form on their website and, if they think you fulfil their criteria, they’ll give you a licencing agreement, which sets forth the conditions and rights under which they work with local organizers. They’ll give you a starter kit with everything you need to know about hosting an event and also materials to use for the event. However, they don’t offer financial support and the event is always non-profit and they’re free to attend.

Have you ever been to a Human library? Share your experience with us!

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Claudia Laborda
Hi, I'm Claudia, a writer and digital media enthusiast from Barcelona.
I moved to Stockholm in 2017. I love books, being in nature and photography. Check my Instagram @kospialidosa.