PuSh Blog

Understanding Human Library

January 31, 2014

2014 Human Library participants at PuSh FestivalWhat is the Human Library?

Human Library is an experiential work that began in Denmark in 2001 when a small collective of individuals created this project to break down prejudice and promote dialogue, following a hate crime committed against a friend. The project has since gained huge popularity around the globe, with iterations popping up at local libraries in such countries as Australia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Brazil, England and Germany.

The premise is deceptively simple: take out a ‘human book’ at the library, and engage in a conversation with this book. Human Library is an opportunity to engage with a stranger, to learn more about someone you might otherwise never have the chance to meet. But it isn’t simply about the ‘human book’; it’s as much about you, the ‘reader’. It challenges you to face the prejudices and assumptions that filter your worldview, that colour every interaction you have with others. Human Library is no small opportunity to know yourself as much as it is to know another.

See for yourself in these videos from other Human Library projects.
Then go to the Vancouver Public Library this weekend to know for yourself.


Human Library, Toronto, Canada, 2011


A Human Library trainer speaks at TEDx Talks, Wroclaw, Poland, 2011

Reception and reaction to the Vancouver premiere of Human Library at the PuSh Festival 2013, prompted the return of the work to the 2014 Festival. Here are a few reactions from last year’s Human Library participants:

>> When I went to the Human Library I believed that I was entering this space with openness to what I would encounter. However, I was confronted with the uncovering of my own assumptions about the people that I met… The value of the experience of going to the Human Library has been immeasurable. Throughout the inquire process there was often a feeling of gratitude for the opportunity presented by hearing the stories of others. << – Sarah W.


>> Thought-provoking, eye opening and wonderful to have been through. << – Sarah E.


>> … the idea of the Human Library was so foreign and intriguing… and it turned out to be so uniquely ‘mind-altering’. I truly think that this meeting of ‘difference or ‘alterity’ is where one finds truth, beauty and love; given the ability to open and capable of actually seeing… << – Melanie


2014 Human Library participants at PuSh Festival

Check out a human book, read what titles are in for the final weekend of Human Library, running January 31 to February 2, 12pm to 5pm at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.