The Human Library is a concept that first started in Copenhagen in 2000. The idea is to consider individuals as books, instead of reading about people, cultures and places from books. It uses a library analogy of lending people their stories rather than books.
In ‘Human libraries’, people who have unique lives share their stories and their lives with someone who wants to ‘read’ it. In a time when conversations and interaction with people has been reducing due to social media or everything being digital, information is mostly known and sought from the internet. How much of what we know about people, cultures, way of living, concepts, and such others, can be considered authentic knowledge? How much have we actually learned from a ‘real person’?
The human library is a movement to break stereotypes and allow us to know just from books or here-say, but ‘straight from the horse’s mouth!’ A simple example would be – do you know about someone suffering from AIDS, or has disabilities, or is Indian, or is gay, from an actual person? How have we formed our ideas about these people?
As an example – In a human library, you get to ‘read’ someone who may be gay. You can read ‘them’ about how life is being gay and what being gay is all about, by talking to them about it instead of knowing about it from the internet or a book. How awesome would that be!!
As an Indian, who has travelled around the world, I was invited to be a ‘book’ at the human library in Nachod in Czech Republic. It was the most interesting experience where people would actually come up to me and ‘read me’. They would ask questions, ask me to share stories, or ask bizarre and awkward questions about the notions they had about life as a backpacker or as an Indian.
Why is Indian food spicy always?
How do you get money to keep travelling?
Is India unsafe to travel?
Do all Indians love dancing?
Have you left home for good?
Are your parents ok with you leading such a life?
Why do you live such a life?
When do you intend to settle?
Or the classic – don’t you miss home?
The list is unending…. And when they had the chance, I was a book that all those young people wanted to read cover-to-cover! But honestly… to learn about an India and an Indian traveller, who is extremely conscious about leading a sustainable life, works with social communities, living out of a rucksack for years, and with minimum possessions, what would your stereotype?
Would you rather prefer talking to someone, or reading about it off a book or online?