Reading People

The Human Library in action.

Patrons of the Human Library check out ‘books’ that interrogate and dismantle stereotypes

Founded in 2001 in Denmark to promote human rights and social cohesion, the human library project seeks to create greater understanding between people and provide a safe space to learn more about each other and work through stereotypes and discrimination, with the ultimate goal of forging new connections between people.

A Human Library consists of “books” that are human. Each of these “books” volunteers to take part in the library. Like a regular library, the Human Library has a card catalog, and readers can check out “books” on a topic they are interested in learning more about. For example, one could check out titles such as “Gun Talk,” “Homeschooled,” “Pro Life—The Safest Space,” “Rastafarian,” “White Parent, Black Child,” or “A Triple Minority in Trump’s America” and learn more about the person who has volunteered as that book, their life and the challenges and stereotypes that they have overcome or that they face. Readers can check out each “book” for 30 minutes, during which reader and book have a one-on-one conversation.

The Human Library has been sponsored by the Gaudino Fund and the Williams College Libraries annually since 2012, and routinely attracts a wide swath of community as well as College-associated “books” and “readers.” The 2016 Human Library drew a record number of books, 58, as well as 216 readers (including 68 6th and 7th graders). In addition to the school children, most of whom read three or four titles in groups of three or four kids, there were 229 adult checkouts. The event was covered by the Albany TV news and in advance by the local radio station in North Adams.