Generally speaking, most libraries operate around the same way. You fill out a form to get your library card, find the book you want, check it out, forget to return it and pay the late fee two months later when you find the book under your bed. Things operate a little differently at The Human Library, though. At this library, people come in to check out not books, but people.
It’s an unusual, but eye-opening concept that is catching on at libraries across the globe. The Human Library has a list of people available to borrow and visitors are free to peruse the “subjects” and pick out a person that interests them and sit with them for a half hour and hear their story, or just talk about whatever. The list of human book titles is pretty fascinating with previous titles including: “Olympic Athlete,” “Biking Agoraphobic,” “Prostitute,” “A Questioning Christian,” and “Lovable Lumpy Loon.” With subjects like that, you know you’re bound to hear some fascinating stories and probably walk away having learned something, too.
The concept of The Human Library started 15 years ago in Denmark as way to curb youth violence and encourage people to not judge a book (i.e. person) by their cover. The project also functions as a platform for people who may just want somebody to talk to, and considering that no two people are alike, the stories available are endless.
The project has proved to be so successful in Denmark that The Human Library has expanded and gone on the road, making appearances in fifty countries on five continents. Some places like Tasmania and South Korea have even set up their own permanent human libraries to help foster people connecting with strangers. Santa Monica in California started its own Human Library project in 2009.
No word yet if a late fee still applies.