Hyperlinked Loria

October 27, 2020

The People-Person Program-People*

Filed under: Uncategorized — by @ 5:20 pm

*Sorry everyone, I can never resist an opportunity to throw in an Office reference 🙂

I first decided that I wanted to be a journalist during my sophomore year of high school. I loved wandering the halls with feature story ideas churning around my restless head. Each kid that I passed had some kind of story to tell; some wanted to shout it from the rooftops, others wanted to quietly jot it down in their notebooks on a blank page behind their history notes. The challenge for me, as the journalist, was to get to know them well enough that they trusted me to tell their story. Albeit challenging, it was a thrill to lose myself for a moment and get wrapped up in my subject’s world. It was that challenge that carried me through college when I declared my major to be journalism. 

As time went on, my articles strayed away from the fascinating people that drew me into the field, and went the way of politics, budgets, and town hall minutes. I learned early on that the career I yearned meant first writing the dry articles people read out of necessity rather than pleasure. I found the stories that enticed me and led me to journalism in the first place were starting to draw me someplace else- to books. I tacked Literature on as another major in college and found solace from the boring articles I was writing within the pages of the books I read. After I graduated, my love of books brought me to the library, and I’ve been there ever since. That’s just a small sample from my own little story, but the crux of what I’m trying to convey is that stories transport us; mentally, of course, but sometimes physically, too.

I find the concept of a Human Library to be utterly fascinating. Though on the surface the idea of “checking out a person instead of a book” seems a bit bizarre, when put into practice it’s an ingenious way for people to get to know one another, network, and connect. Or, as the Human Library in Denmark aptly puts it, “The goal is to get beyond assumptions and stereotypes, to ‘unjudge someone.’” I think something magical happens when worlds collide. I think we can finally see one another when we take a moment to consider a different perspective. Mark Ray’s article “Courageous Conversations at the Human Library” features interviews with volunteers and coordinators of the Human Library in Denmark. Ray quotes the Library’s website, “Before the first reader could take out a book, the talks were already going on extensively and the feeling of something very special was in the air. The policeman sitting there speaking with the graffiti writer. The politician in discussions with the youth activists and the football fan in a deep chat with the feminist. It was a win-win situation and has been ever since.” Erasing our dividing lines is so important, especially in today’s totally polarized political climate.

So other than embracing the power of stories and the people who create them, why might a library implement a Human Library program? What makes libraries the key place to host such a program? As Erin Wentz writes in her article “The Human Library: Sharing the Community With Itself,” “The public library serves as public forum and as a place for the exchange of ideas. Most public libraries also define themselves in part as places for people to find information and as places where people learn. The human library provides a place for people, both readers and books, to frankly explore ideas through one-on-one dialogues.” The library is a place where all are welcome; a place where people are encouraged to listen, learn, and connect with others. What better way to achieve those goals than with conversation?

Particularly in our current quarantined lives, the concept of the human library has even more value. People crave contact and human interaction, even if the interaction is virtual. We all have a story to tell, and I believe the library is the perfect place to tell them.




  1. Hi Ashley,

    I also loved reading about the Human Library. It’s a fantastic opportunity for members in a community to learn from one another in a personable manner. The library is definitely the place for a program like this, and I think a great way for libraries looking to test out the program (if they haven’t already implemented it) during the pandemic would be through a virtual program. It’s a great way to unite a library’s community when we are often feel isolated. Thank you for your analysis of the Human Library.


    Comment by Ciera Pasturel — October 31, 2020 @ 8:19 am |Reply

    • Hi Ciera,
      I completely agree. Especially with the pandemic entering another wave of high cases, it’s important that we come together (virtually of course) and remind folks that we’re still here and eager to connect!

      Comment by Ashley Loria — November 5, 2020 @ 1:31 am |Reply

  2. Ashley – I wonder what the Human Library would look like in Zoom or a similar web conferencing app. It certainly has a lot of potential! Thanks for this post and sorry to keep you waiting!

    Comment by Michael Stephens — November 2, 2020 @ 10:34 pm |Reply

    • It’s interesting that you mention the Human Library in a Zoom app- although it’s not a Human Library program, I have had a tremendous spike in attendance for my third grade book club. Across the board, certain programs have had considerably better attendance than the programs were once having when they were offered onsite.

      Comment by Ashley Loria — November 5, 2020 @ 1:30 am |Reply

  3. Hi Ashley,
    Reading about the Human Library always gets me thinking of an activity that my elementary school did. All of the fifth grade students put on a living museum for the younger grades. They would dress up as historical figures and when somebody stood in front of them they would tell the story of that historical figure. I feel like it’s a similar concept with perhaps a similar underlying intention, that of making history, whether current or in the past, come alive. I love how the Human Library takes this idea a step further and also creates a dialogue between people.

    Comment by Cathryne Ramirez — November 13, 2020 @ 5:45 am |Reply

    • Hi Cathryne,
      Yes! The elementary schools in my library’s town do a similar project! There’s always one month of the year when we have very slim pickings in the way of our biography section. I always love to see how their projects come together. Thank you for sharing!

      Comment by Ashley Loria — November 17, 2020 @ 4:40 pm |Reply

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