Imagine walking into your library, handing over your library card, and checking out a Buddhist monk for a thirty minute conversation about peace activism. Once you've returned the monk, you might check out a heavily tattooed biker with multiple facial piercings - and find out he is an opera enthusiast.
I read about the Human Library Project
a few years ago, before I was working in a library. I thought it was a great idea then, and when a co-worker read an article about it recently, and suggested it as a Thursday blog item, I was glad to see it's still going strong.
The goal of the Human Library is to combat prejudice by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, and allowing them to communicate. Volunteer "Books" are people who are willing to be "checked out" by other people for a conversation about their life. Often, the "books" are representative of a group or lifestyle that experiences prejudice from mainstream society - they may be gay, punk, an ex-gang member, or Wiccan, to name just a few. The volunteers are "open books" - readers may ask them anything they might want to know about that book's lifestyle. Patrons of the Human Library are encouraged to examine their own biases, and then check out a "book" that might help dispel prejudice through simple, one on one conversation.
Take a look at a video clip of a Human Library event in the U.K, as a patron learns, after her conversation with one of the volunteers, "not to judge a book by it's cover."