You Can Check a ‘Human Book’ Out of the Library This Weekend

human librarySome of the "human books" who will be available at the library this weekend. Photo courtesy of CCTV.

Who’s better suited to remind you to not judge a book by its cover than the library?

The Cambridge Public Library and CCTV are teaming up this weekend to let people “check out” “human books” to combat discrimination and to help people understand others’ perspectives.

Participants will have the chance to speak with one of the 11 human books, all of whom have “have experienced discrimination or stigma based on who they are, where they come from, or how they self-identify,” according to CCTV.

The books include DACA recipients, homeless men, and person who has experienced ageism. Some of them, like Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville Bard, Jr., are local leaders.

The self-assigned book titles include “Porque: Why I left my home country, to live in a foreign place as a woman, as a lesbian, and as an illegal immigrant” and “Writer, Wanderer, Friend … Radical? Learn about natural hair, fresh food warriors, and the Nation of Islam with your friendly neighborhood radical.”

“Readers” will “check out” the books for 30-minute conversations. Readers can participate in the conversations solo or form a “book group” of up to three people.

“The Human Library is this idea using the model we use every day—of checking books out and taking something away from that, an experience that expands your horizons and your understanding of the world—and changing it to this method of conversation and people providing new information,” Communications Manager for the public library Zoe Del Mar says. “Our mission at the library is to promote an open exchange of ideas and free information, so this really ties into what we’re trying to do.”

The Human Library concept debuted in Copenhagen in 2000. CCTV approached the public library about holding a local iteration as part of the organization’s 30th anniversary efforts.

“CCTV’s mission has always been to provide the tools and training to enable everyone to express the reality of their lives,” CCTV Executive Director Susan Fleischmann told Scout in an email. “Civic engagement is an integral part of our efforts. The plans for our 30th anniversary, … as a result of the times in which we find ourselves, are very much focused on celebration, but also on conversation, community, connection.”

The Human Library will run on May 5 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cambridge Public Library’s main branch. The event is free. Some walk-ins will be accepted, but Fleischmann encourages people to sign up ahead of time at cctvcambridge.org/humanlibrary.

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