Visiting the Human Library

First aired on Ottawa Morning (16/01/12)

human-library-175.jpgImagine reading a book, but being able to pause in the middle of the story to ask it a question — and then receive a thoughtful answer.

Despite all the newfangled technological bells and whistles in e-books and tablets, the most interactive storytelling experience remains a one-on-one conversation with a real person. On Saturday, Jan. 28, people in Ottawa will celebrate this with the city's Human Library project.

Instead of borrowing books, library users will be able to "borrow" people for 20-minute discussions. Sixty individuals have signed on to act as human literature, to share their unique experiences and knowledge with the public. Some of the diverse guests include an Algonquin spiritual adviser, a Peking Opera performer, a stripper, a pediatric neurosurgeon and several CBC journalists.

The concept originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000. The organizers planned the activity as part of an anti-violence campaign and aimed to promote dialogue between different groups of people.

"We tried to look at how could we get people who normally wouldn't speak to each other, or have any contact, to sit down and have an exchange, to try to see things eye-to-eye or have an open dialogue about how they perceive each other," said Ronni Abergel, one of the project's founders.

Since then, Human Library events have spread across the world and many Canadian cities. To find a Human Library near you, click here.