Human Library Lets You ‘Check Out’ Living Storytellers, Not Books

HumanLibrary

How does one combat prejudice and stereotypes more effectively? Venturing into a library and reading about different cultures is one route—but of course, reading comes with its own rocky ground; who was writing about the culture and how, along with the reader’s own interpretations, can cause even more confusion, and damage toward the cause of increased empathy.

But what if instead of a book, you could check out another human?

That’s the philosophy behind the Human Library, an event set to take place at the Main Branch of the Long Beach Library on May 31.

First created in Copenhagen in 2000 by Stop the Violence, a crew of five youth activists disturbed by the stabbing of a friend, the phenomenon has slowly grown because of its simplicity: sit down and talk to people whose shoes you may never be in.

“I heard about Human Libraries a couple years ago, and since then have been hoping for another Human Library event in the area,” said organizer Rachel Rifkin. “After awhile, I got tired of waiting and decided to ask some local organizations if they would be interested in coming together to create one in Long Beach.”

Those organizations—the Long Beach Public Library, Long Beach Free School, the Long Beach Time Exchange, and Eayikes—have now gathered a retired cop, a transgender person, an advocate for public breastfeeding, and a formerly incarcerated woman who has used her own experience to help other released women transition back into civic life.

Long Beach locals are encouraged to nominate additional Human Books; ultimately, the event will have a total of 15 available for a 15- to 20-minute check-out. Nominations will be taken until the end of April.

If you know of someone who would make a good Human Book, email [email protected] or [email protected] with a nomination.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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