boardwalk Challenge prejudice and encourage empathy with the power of personal stories.

Everyone has a unique story to tell.

Some stories we rarely or never hear. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet one-on-one with new people – especially those with experiences we may never have encountered – to hear the stories they want to share? Talking with people whose lives may appear different from our own can help to encourage empathy and a deeper understanding among members of our community. To reveal these stories, I propose that Brooklyn Public Library hosts two Human Library™ events in 2019 at the Central Library. Brooklyn Public Library would be the first public organization to host a Human Library™ event in New York City.

The Human Library™ is a worldwide movement started in Denmark in 2000 that uses the language of the library world and has spread to over 80 countries. It was developed to challenge societal prejudices wherever and for whatever reasons they occur, and to help people form a better understanding of those with whom they share their communities.

Brooklyn Public Library will partner with a not-for-profit organization, a Human Library™ NYC “Book Depot,” that will recruit volunteers to serve as living “books.” Of particular interest are individuals who represent groups in the community that are exposed to stigma, prejudice, or discrimination. The Human Library™ recommends that at least five of the following areas are represented: ethnicity, religion, sexuality, occupation, social status, lifestyle, health, disabilities and age.

At each event, participants or “readers” will have the opportunity to “read” a book in 20-30 minute one-on one or small group conversations. Librarians and volunteers will monitor the conversations, ensuring a safe space. For example, a police officer volunteering as a “book” might talk about stereotypes and prejudices that typically occur in daily work, and answer questions that the reader may have. The outcome and direction of the conversation is dependent on what the reader asks about. It is the privilege of both parties to can end the conversation at any point that they wish.

Brooklyn Public Library’s Human Library™ events will be open to adults and children 6 and older. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a guardian. A carefully selected set of “books” will be chosen for children.

With prior permission from the Human Library™ organization, events have been hosted by public libraries, high schools and universities in more than 17 states. Human Library™ events also support diversity and inclusion in corporate settings such as eBay and Heineken.

After a pilot first year, Human Library™ events could be offered at other branches of Brooklyn Public Library in an opportunity to challenge opinions and encourage empathy through conversations throughout the borough.

This proposal was created for Central Library.

This proposal aligns with the following Core Principles of Brooklyn Public Library:

To strengthen relations between residents and promote civic engagement,   To provide inclusive and inspirational places.


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