Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Toronto Public Library's Human Library Project

Via YongeStreet

In comfy green chairs in front of a massive and sunny window overlooking Bloor Street, several different conversations are taking place between pairings of strangers. A CBC journalist is telling someone about the stories he's covered. A Tibetan Buddhist monk is talking about his journey to Canada and about the importance of peace. I'm talking to 19-year-old Brandon Hibbs about his life. Originally from Newfoundland, Hibb's parents moved the family to Windsor, then Toronto to make sure their son, who has cerebral palsy, got the best services he could get. I ask Hibbs about school (he likes history and science), his career plans (broadcasting) and his love life (could be better). Hibbs holds nothing back.

"People appreciate my personality. I'm very straight to the point," Hibbs tells me and it's at this point I realize his name tag features a barcode that looks like a book's ISBN code. He's one of the volunteer "books" in the Toronto Public Library's Human Library project. I used my library card to check him out of the Bloor/Gladstone branch. I have to "return" Hibbs in a half-hour so another library user can check him out; you can't just pay a fine for the late return of a human book.

The idea of a Human Library first emerged in Copenhagen about a decade ago, as a way to break down prejudice by bringing people of different backgrounds together for one-on-one conversation.

"With the Human Library, it's a one-on-one experience and that kind of storytelling, from person to person, does harken back to centuries and centuries ago when a story was the only way to learn," says Anne Marie Aikins, TPL's manager of corporate communications. "It's an old technology."
Read the entire article here. You can learn more about the Human Library project here.

Image Source : YongeStreet

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