Shared from the 12/20/2017 Colo Spgs Gazette eEdition


Never judge a ‘Human Book’ at PPLD by its cover


As a frequent flyer at the Pikes Peak Library District, I know the fastest way to locate good books, but who would have thought you could check out a human book at the library? Just like an autobiography, everybody has a story to tell. Most of the time, we haven’t a clue about others’ stories.

In March 2018, a variety of people will be available for a 20-minute “check out” from PPLD’s “Human Library.” The goal of the Human Library is to encourage dialogue and help people understand perspectives that may differ from their own. To me, that sounds like a great way to spend 20 minutes.

Here’s how it works: The Human Library participants share their experiences in a personal way in a safe, private space in the library. Imagine for a moment: Would you like to talk with a female merchant sailor or a sexual abuse survivor? How about talking with someone who is transgender or someone who has struggled with depression?

These “human books” are available through a program that started last year in our community. Other book titles include “Refugee” and “Serbian concentration camp survivor,” “Native American,” and “Person struggling with schizophrenia.” There’re also the “Christian homemaker” and the “Single mother of kids from three different fathers.”

The Human Library isn’t just local. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that started about 12 years ago in Denmark. In 1993, after the brutal stabbing of a young man, who fortunatley survived the attack, a group of Danish friends decided to start a youth organization devoted to raising awareness and combatting violence among young people in Denmark. “Stop the Violence” quickly grew into an organization with more than 30,000 members.

As it evolved, the concept of a Human Library was created to encourage dialogue, build positive relationships and combat violence. The concept was formalized in 2000 as a project for the Roskilde Festival, Europe’s biggest summer festival. In Danish, it’s “Menneskebiblioteket” and in English, it’s called The Human Library. Today, more than 70 countries have Human Library programs and events.

Building relationships can be difficult, especially with others who have different backgrounds, views and lifestyles from us. This unusual approach focuses on talking about differences in a way that’s positive and informative. Let’s ask, how can we start to bridge the gap and break down stereotypes? How do we become more aware of our own prejudices? I wonder why diversity seems to be something that keeps us apart instead of bringing us together. Why should differences create walls rather than openness? How do we drop our guard and gain more insight? It seems as if we are each in bubbles, going about our daily life, yet, I think the Human Library provides a quick glimpse into another bubble for a short while.

PPLD has hosted two Human Library events with a third scheduled for March 10, 2018. At the first event, 78 people participated in one-on-one conversations, followed by 34 at the second event. In library terminology, think of these as 78 circulations, in the same way books are circulated from one library member to another. According to Tiffany Paisley, Cheyenne Mountain Library Manager, “It was so successful that participants asked when the next one would be, and some even suggested holding one every week. People are craving civic dialogue, discussion and connection.”

I think it takes bravery and courage to open our bubbles to other people. Maybe if we each did more of this, we would discover new ways to strengthen our relationships and bring our community together. Like the adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we might discover we’ve misunderstood and misjudged others based on their appearance alone. We might feel like the participant who said that this experience “totally busted some of my assumptions.”

Intrigued? Curious? Take a break from your holiday routine and learn about the worldwide Human Library network The next PPLD Human Library will run from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd. I plan to be there to learn something new, break my stereotypes and broaden my perspective. I can’t think of any better way to spend a Saturday in our community.

Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant. She and her family have lived on Colorado Springs’ northeast side for 18 years. Contact Julie with comments or ideas for her column at woodmennotes@

See this article in the e-Edition Here