Interested in learning more about the lives of ex cons, sex therapists or born-again Christians? The Vancouver Public Library has the “book” for you.
As part of this year’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (Jan. 14-Feb. 2), the library will be loaning out dozens of “human books.” Visitors can check out everyone from a recovering hoarder to a male nanny and female heavy equipment operator, then sit down for an in-depth one-on-one conversation.
Presented for the first time in Vancouver at last year’s PuSh, the Human Library project is intended to give people the opportunity to talk with members of groups that are traditionally marginalized or misunderstood. Inspiration for the event comes from Copenhagen, Denmark, where the first Human Library was launched in 2000 as a way to fight stereotypes and promote dialogue in the community.
On select days during the festival, visitors to the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch can head to a special circulation desk on the third floor and peruse the human titles available. In addition to the “books” mentioned above, titles include Medium, Open Marriage, Transgender Woman, Invisibly Disabled, Coping with Dementia, Living with Bipolar and Interracial Couple, among dozens of others. Participants are drawn from the local community and have volunteered to share short narratives of their lives.
After signing out their “book,” visitors have a 20-minute, one-on-one session. Generally, the first 10 minutes consist of a short prepared speech, while the last 10 minutes are open to any and all questions – and the “books” aren’t shy.
The Human Library is free, and “books” are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to heavy demand, visitors are asked to arrive one-two hours before they expect to “read” their title.