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Human Library

Borrowing people instead of books to challenge your preconceptions and beliefs

Photo of Kate Rushton
5 11

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The human library is an international movement where people can 'borrow' people they would not normally meet and have a dialogue with them. 

There are local 'chapters' who hold events where you can borrow people who are stigmatized e.g.  a political refugee in the UK. 

I have attached a video of an example of a Human Library event. 

I have mentioned the Human Library a few times but I decided to write a post about the Human Library after I realized that I completed a final year project on a medical condition without ever meeting someone who had the condition or anyone treating someone with that condition. 

I attended several lectures about environmental justice. If I was studying it today, instead of reading about Exxon Valdez or Brent Spa, maybe I could learn from the perspective of the people involved in current issues around the world today e.g. the conflict between the Sami and Britain's Beowulf Mining over an iron ore mining project in the north of Sweden from the perspective of the Sami, other locals, the Swedish government, Beowulf Mining and shareholders in the company, and buyers of iron ore. 

I first became aware of the Human Library from Melita Lumanto post here -

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the Community Guide for this challenge. I have studied at Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds University in the UK and graduated with qualifications in Biochemistry, Toxicology, and Environmental Management. I have held a number of jobs including being a TEFL teacher and energy analyst. I love to learn new skills and loathe stagnation.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How can Higher Education help people challenge their preconceptions by exposing them to the people they have preconceptions about? How can Higher Education use people to bring the learning material 'to life' and make it more relevant?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Christophe Parot

Connections are important !

Photo of Chris Eberhardt

I had a similar idea for an app called "office hours." I hope your library materializes. 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Chris! The Human Library already exists. I am just posting it in the research phases as an example project so that people can draw inspiration and generate new ideas. Please do post the "office hours" in the ideas phase (which opens in 18 days). A lot of our members have responded positively to the Human Library in this challenge, including some people involved in higher education. Kate

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Rich

Kate poses the following situation: Suppose you were studying Environmental Justice. You might attend lectures, read some books, pore over a few case studies…or you might want to actually talk to someone who was affected by, say, the Flint, Michigan water crisis or the events following the Fukushima tsunami.  What a powerful ideaa. It  applies to many different conversations. Wouldn’t it be great for computer scientists studying cyber security to assemble key players in the discovery, capture and containment of the Morris Worm, widely believed to be the first broad cyber attack on the Internet? How might a small liberal arts college host a classroom discussion with participants from around the world? The 1981 collapse of a walkway at the Kansas City Hyatt Hotel is often used as a case study for ethics classes, but many of the stakeholders (victims, engineers, construction personnel, government officials) are still living. How about engaging in a dialog with them?