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This unique library is helping people smash their stereotypes


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Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/20/21

The Human Library is teaching people not to judge a book by its cover.

There’s a common saying that many of our parents shared with us as we grew up: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And voracious readers around the world can certainly attest to the fact that behind many terrible covers are some real treasures.

Well, what if we applied this saying to people, too?

The Human Library is an initiative that started out in Denmark, and has been running over the last couple of decades trying to smash stereotypes and preconceived ideas that individuals may have of people. It invites people to “borrow” a person for 30 minutes and delve into the chapters of their lives.

The concept is certainly intriguing, and encourages us to “unjudge” someone. As is so often true in life, once an individual is stuck with a label it’s hard for some people to see beyond that.

The “human book” has a title that corresponds to their situation or status such as “unemployed,” “convert,” or, for example, “sexually abused.” Some people might approach the subject with little knowledge, but through the conversation they come to understand what that person is experiencing in life, and develop both understanding and empathy.

The volunteer human books are willing to answer any questions their readers may have, no matter how difficult, which in itself is extremely brave. However, by being “open books” they allow people to see them, and others who may be like them, in a whole new light.

The project has had great success all over the world, and people can look on the Human Library website to find upcoming events, which have been made a little easier with the ability to lend a book virtually.

The non-profit also asks for volunteer human books that defy stereotypes, so perhaps if you’d like to wear your “Catholic” label, you could share your life and beliefs, and answer some of the tricky questions people so often have about the faith with those willing to learn more.

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