Living library - of Multilingual Centre Bolzano
The living library, (from the original “Human library”) is a real life library with readers, librarians and a catalogue of titles. Its particularity lies in the fact that the books are real people who make themselves available to readers to tell something about their lives. The idea of the living library is one where the reader has a direct relationship with the "book", can ask questions and deal directly with him / her in order to find out about his/her story. The "book" can tell stories about itself, its life, memories, successes and defeats, feelings, fears, friends, family, etc. Each one is free to express what it feels to the reader / listener. The living library is a tool designed to break stereotypes and distrust, promoting knowledge and dialogue and facilitating the possibility of a meeting between people. Readers are offered the opportunity to get in touch with people that they wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to meet. The meeting makes the person before you real and unique, no longer perceived as a representative of a category based on generalisation, but is recognized in its uniqueness, for its experience and its history.
Living books are people aware of belonging to minorities subject to stereotypes and prejudices. Wanting to break down these stereotypes and prejudices, they become available to discuss their experiences and values with others.
The titles can be deliberately very direct (for example "Islamic woman with veil", "Albanian emigrant") just to arouse the emotional reactions of potential readers, activating their curiosity, but also the stereotypes and prejudices.
Readers / listeners have a catalogue of living books available from which they can choose and borrow one book at a time. The loan lasts approximately 20 minutes, during which the reader can ask questions, clarify ideas, satisfy their curiosity and break down any prejudices and stereotypes.
As in any library, there are regulations.
• Able to borrow several books on the same day
• Ask the book questions
• The service is completely free
• The rules for the "reader"
• Borrow one book at a time
• The maximum loan term is 20 minutes
• Return the book in the same condition in which it was delivered!
• Treat the book with respect without damaging its sensitivity and dignity
The rights of the "book"
• Be treated with respect
• Not obliged to answer questions which are seen as a little delicate
• Stop reading when it is deemed appropriate
One does not judge a book by its cover, nor a person by his/her face. Choosing a book takes time and effort; it's not like choosing a drink.
Choosing a living book requires an even greater effort: you have to be able to converse with a person who is "different", "strange", never seen before.
It is necessary to take action to open oneself to other people, to go beyond one’s comfort zone.
But talking to people who are victims of stereotypes (a feminist, a Muslim, a person with rings and tattoos) makes one more confident socially, also outside
the library: the next time we come across a stranger who is a bit different, we won’t cross over the road; we will feel more comfortable among diversity, because we have learned to get to know different people.
The living library is good for you!