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National Human Library Day invites Canadians to interact with people they might not otherwise meet.

In partnership with CBC, local libraries and cultural centres in 15 cities across the country have asked volunteers with a wide range of experiences to act as human “books” and make themselves available for one-on-one conversations about their lives.

In Hamilton, visit the Central, Dundas, Terryberry and Westdale branches on Saturday Jan. 26 between 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. to have a conversation with a human "book." You can sign out one book in advance online by selecting the tab for the branch you prefer.

On the same day, CBCNews.ca will host a live event online and keep the conversations going on Twitter using the hashtag #CBCHumanLibrary. You can find this event at cbc.ca/human library.

The first Human Library was held in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival, a large North European culture and music festival, by a non-governmental youth movement in Copenhagen. Since then Human Library events have been held in 27 countries.

CBC is the first broadcaster to be involved as a national media partner.

Please note readers are only allowed one sign-out in advance of the event. Please read our Reader Guidelines for more details.

Central Library
Westdale Library
Dundas Library
Terryberry Library
  • Hamilton Central Library

    55 York Boulevard

    Lost and Found

    I am a recovering addict who grew up in various foster homes and experienced a lot of abuse. I started using alcohol and drugs at 14 as a way to feel better. At 16, I quite school and began living on the streets where I got involved with hard drugs, gambling and prostitution in order to survive. My first of many jail sentences was at 18. By 51, I’d lost everything and I finally accepted help.

    I have been clean and sober for three years, during which time I went to college and graduated with high honours. At last, I’ve found myself.

    Drag Queen

    A drag queen is a gay man who likes to dress up as a girl now and then, usually for a performance or just to flirt and have fun. Drag Queens give everyone the freedom to experiment with gender, because they are men who are not afraid of their feminine side, and in fact are a little in love with femininity. Most drag queens have close relationships with women, and misogyny is only an aspect of drag if you think being a woman is defined by a purse or a lipstick.

    I like to do drag so I can flirt, be vulnerable, and be gentle -- qualities that come less easily to me when I'm dressed as a guy. Call me crazy...but that's the way it is!

    Hamilton Chronicler

    I wasn’t born in Hamilton and didn’t know much about the place. I’d seen the view from the Skyway, the stacks and the flames, and guessed that people there must be wishing they lived somewhere else.

    But 30 years ago, I ended up working here and learned to love this place. My job has been to tell the stories of Hamilton. Some are about struggles, because this rustbelt city has had to do plenty of that.

    But there are many tales tied to what makes Hamilton wonderful – the bay, the escarpment, the history, the people who are proud to live in a place most outsiders don’t understand.

    Get me talking about Hamilton and I might never stop.

    Living With A Disability

    Living with a disability, is not a difficult life just different. Being active and pursuing your interests while meeting people, is much more fun and enjoyable. As a young person, I had a horse to ride in the community where I lived and later I learned to drive a buggy. Once I was entered in a horse show at the old CNE grounds in Toronto and slept in the stall beside my horse. Life was not always easy or simple, with medications to take and exercises to do. Even today, going to school, work or attending horse events means planning to work with my disability and get the most out of each day.

    A Man of Wonderful Words

    I am an award winning writer and the son of American immigrants — a black father and a white mother — who came to Canada the day after they married in 1953 in Washington, D.C. The story of how they met, left the United States and raised a family in Toronto is described in one of my memoirs. I have travelled to Niger, Cameroon and Mali as a volunteer with Crossroads International. I visit book clubs in prisons as an active volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates. I am currently working on a new book.

    Protector of the Earth

    I have a passion for the earth and protecting it for generations to come. I believe that people with environmental concerns should be empowered to act on those concerns using legislation and other available tools. I’ve taught environmentally focused courses at both undergraduate and graduate level. I’m also an avid cyclist, vegetarian and hope to hike the Grand Canyon one day. Let’s talk about what we can do for our planet.

    Refugee Artist

    I am a refugee from El Salvador and have been in Canada for 27 years. I witnessed much violence before I was 13 years old including the shooting death of my father. I am also a recovering alcoholic. I drank heavily for almost 20 years to try to erase all of my bad memories. I have been sober now for seven and a half years. One of my favourite activities as a child was to draw. Until just recently, I haven’t drawn at all. My neighbor gave me some pencils and I have been drawing quite a bit. I feel positive about my life again and have finished a drawing I started when I was 13.

    Stronger Than Cancer

    October 21, 2008, a date embedded in my mind forever. I was 43 when I first heard I was diagnosed with cancer, I heard nothing else, I was overwhelmed with fear. Suddenly I could not think clearly, at a point in time when thinking clearly was a matter of life and death.

    Cancer does not define me. How I live and fight my battle defines me. Determination, defiance, strength, being proactive and my own advocate have enabled me to have a brilliant, aggressive team of medical professionals. Without them I would not be here today.

    Being surrounded by an amazing, loving, supportive family and loyal friends has given me the ammunition to survive.

    It has often been said, “It takes a village to raise a child." I have learned it takes a country to battle cancer!

    Congratulations, You Have Cancer...

    Being told you have cancer is much like you would expect it to be – a blur. That’s probably why they suggest you bring someone with you. After only two years of being married, and living overseas for a year and half, I came home to cancer. After my initial break down, I made my mind up that the cervical cancer that had invaded my body was in for a fight it was not expecting. Any shame I had went out the window after being repeatedly poked and prodded in a room full of doctors and oncology students. I had no choice but to laugh, to make fun of cancer. There is nothing like the prospect of dying to make you re-examine yourself and everything around you. For all the evil that is cancer, it does give you a realization of what matters, what doesn't and what you really want from life and the people around you. There are many things that cancer took from me, but what it left me with was clarity.

    CBC Journalist

    In the course of a career that began in 1976, I have covered six elections and six prime ministers. I joined CBC News in 1988 following 12 years in newspapers and was initially assigned to Parliament Hill, where I reported on federal politics for CBC News: The National. Before taking up a post in Washington in March 2003, I reported from the Middle East for five years.

    I've won Gemini Awards in 2004 and 2009 for Best Reportage; the most recent for my reporting on the economic crisis.

  • Westdale Library

    955 King Street West

    Dude To Diva

    This story is one of struggles, sacrifices, strength, determination and ultimately, success.

    I’m a middle-aged woman, who was born biologically male. At a very early age, I knew that I was not a boy, but was indeed a girl. I kept my secret well hidden from family and friends. Until I reached the age of 42, I lead a "double" life. One very male, public life, where I fathered two children, and one very secret female life, where I carefully sheltered myself from society.

    Fifteen years ago, I made a critical, life-saving decision to “come out.”

    I made my public declaration on a national television show in New York City.

    In February 2012, I travelled to Montreal, Quebec, where my surgery transforming me into the complete female - what I always knew I had been – was performed and successfully completed.

    Today, I continue to be a pioneer in advocating for transgender individuals and delivering transgender education to both the private and public sector.

    The Black Sheep

    I was born February 2, 1965 in Hamilton, the only person of colour on the maternity ward. I have been oppressed and had racial slurs thrown at me since that day.

    Not only was I born of colour but with aboriginal roots as well. I grew up in central Hamilton all of my life in a very white environment where people thought it was ok to call me a “nigger” daily. This only made me stronger and more determined to prove people wrong. I became a great athlete and no one could take that away from me despite being a Black Aboriginal person. People started to embrace me to be part of their teams and communities. I was gifted enough to be awarded an athletic scholarship in multiple sports and life began to look much better.

    Since then, I have supported children, youth and adults for over 20 years in promoting positive change in his capacity as Youth Worker and Cognitive Skill Development Facilitator. Presently employed by the John Howard Society of Hamilton, Burlington & Area, he has worked in the Youth Leadership and Ambassador Program (YLAP), a Gang Exit Program with a population of youth who present with multiple barriers and are gang-involved.

    Librarian. Archivist. Poet. Painter.

    Born at #1 Mahoney in the North End beside the Coke bottling plant into a family of bagpipe-playing steel workers.

    Awarded McMaster University’s Rand Memorial Prize for literary accomplishment.

    The only person to win the City of Hamilton Arts Award in two categories.

    Honourable mention from Prism International magazine, and an International Merit Award for poetry from the Atlanta Review. His writing has appeared in Rampike, Mid-American Review, Versal, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Carousel, among others. His artwork has been exhibited in galleries from St. John's to Budapest, and has appeared in magazines including Descant and the White Water Journal.

    Editor of Hamilton Arts & Letters. The Ontario Arts Council says that HA&L has the ‘distinction’ of being the first online magazine they have funded.

    The Mighty Moon King

    The Mighty Moon King is a creative writer and an energetic daycare provider. The Mighty Moon King has a love for children and writing which when combined, create the perfect inspiration to write books that both stimulate the imagination and create a sense of wonder. Join me to discuss the creative writing process and the grandeur of the night sky.

    First Nations

    I was born and grew up in the bush in northern British Columbia and I have lived most of my life near or around animals. When I was five, my parents took my brother and me to the circus where we saw an elephant. I spent the next few weeks looking for elephants in the forest by my home. I am an activist and have run in federal, provincial and municipal elections. I enjoy drumming and am currently writing my memoirs.

    The Road To Discovery

    I am a federal parolee currently residing in a halfway house in Hamilton. I am a former gang member and motorcycle club member that has spent the better part of the last decade incarcerated for a variety of offences. In 2007, I was convicted of drug trafficking and extortion and sentenced to 17 years in prison. The things I discovered in both myself and the federal prison system over the course of the last five years has provided me with a new perspective and outlook on life.

    I have been out of prison for six months now. I am currently working on a university degree while also working full-time. I speak at public events about the prison system and the rehabilitation process, and I spend my free time volunteering with organizations that help improve literacy in the prison system and help to build positive support networks for newly released offenders.

  • Dundas Library

    18 Ogilvie Street

    Queer as a Three-Dollar Bill!

    Growing up and knowing you’re a lesbian in any town or city can be not just complicated, but isolating as well. Growing up a lesbian in a small southern Ontario town in the ‘60s was part of what complicated this woman’s journey. For most of her 18 years in this town of 6,000, she was sure she was alone with 5,999 straight people!

    Seeking love and acceptance, she added a twist to her journey when she converted to Catholism at 16 and entered a life in the closet until 2001. Earning a degree in Religious Studies, she spent 14 years in pastoral ministry in the Catholic Church and, somewhat crazily, still considers herself a practicing Catholic. Learn how one woman navigates the journey through her intersecting identities of Catholic, Feminist and Queer.

    Junior Author

    I am an elementary school student who loves to write. In fact, I have completed and published the first in a series of books for kids in grades five to eight. My book is a fantasy novel and the second and third books in the series will be full of action and danger. If you are interested in writing books, check me out and I share my experiences with you.

    All About Hamilton

    I love Hamilton and make it my business to know all that there is to know about Hamilton. I am an ardent local historian and author with over a dozen books about Hamilton and area. I also give talks to community groups on various historical subjects. My passions include The Players’ Guild of Hamilton of which I am a long time member and past president. I am an unrepentant ailurophile. Bring me your questions about Hamilton or to find out what ailurophile is.

    Mud Huts and Bucket Baths: Finding my Place in the World

    When I was 16 I decided my purpose in life was to build wells in Africa. Now, five years later, my involvement in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has helped me develop a more intelligent perspective towards the unlocking of Africa’s potential.

    I spent four months last summer in Ghana working with EWB and have gained new perspectives on international development, cross-cultural work, and the role a young white North American girl can play in transforming the systems that fuel injustice in the world.

    And yet I somehow I feel more confused than ever before about my future and “altruistic” intentions.

    I've Wandered The World

    I've had the rare opportunity to arrive in more than 60 countries at times of their greatest achievements, but also times of some of their greatest conflicts.

    It is a time when human beings are at their finest and most resolute. And at their worst and most savage.

    It was not quite the career a Watergate-era journalist expected, but it is the hand the times dealt. We don't always get to pick what's important to the times we live in, but we do get the rare privilege of trying to frame it.

    Also Available

    Survivor of Sexual Assault

  • Terryberry Library

    100 Mohawk Road West

    Dreams of Bombs and Killing

    I was born as a refugee. My grandmother fled to Lebanon during Al Nakba of the Palestinian people in 1948. I lived with my family in a refugee camp.

    When I was 10 years old, a war broke out and Lebanon was occupied. Again, we had to flee our home to a neighbouring city. I lost 28 friends and neighbours – including my best friend. For the rest of my childhood, I had no hope. I was always worried about the safety of my family – for my parents, three brothers, three sisters, and grandmother.

    My grandmother instilled in us the important of education. As refugees, we lost our house, our land and were left with nothing. The only thing that stayed with us is education.

    When I came to Canada – my life changed. I could go to school and travel where I wanted. It took me years to not have dreams of bombs and killing.

    I work as a Family Settlement Counsellor where I help immigrants on their settlement journeys in Hamilton. I can relate to their struggles and understand how they feel because I have been there! I am very proud to live in Canada.

    Adopted Jazz Singer

    I’m Miss Maggie, the invincible Canadian-Scottish Warrior! In 1930 at six weeks old, my wealthy family gave me up for adoption. My adoptive parents encouraged my creative musical talents. I have appeared on stage, theatre, television and have sung in Washington for Richard Nixon. I taught voice instruction and directed choirs. Two years ago, a car accident forced me to use a walker. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me as I’m too busy enjoying every minute of my life. Check out Miss Maggie, a classy Jazz Singer, and discover her secrets for a long and joyful life!

    Filmmaker

    “The Store,” shot in Hamilton, marks my sixth short film - and has a good story in its making. The film chronicles a convenience store robbery, and Hamilton Police paid us an alarming visit during the film shoot.

    I’m started making films at a young age, after studying Film and Television at Mohawk College (where I won two academic awards) and Digital Visual Effects at Sheridan College. I currently work as an editor and motion graphics artist for Torstar.

    My films have been screened across North America at film festivals and broadcasted internationally on TV. Two of my films are being distributed worldwide and another picked up a REMI Award for Best Short Film from WorldFest in Houston, Texas, North America's oldest film festival.

    Police Officer

    Before becoming a police officer, I played half a season with the CFL. Upon returning to the Hamilton area, I started to train as a Chef in several local restaurants. In 1990, I joined the Hamilton Police Service. I have worked uniform patrol as a street officer and as a supervisor. I worked in the Community Services office in the downtown area. That included at the time as school officer from junior kindergarten to McMaster University. I worked with neighbourhood groups, BIAs and local city counselors. I was seconded to the Ontario Police College for 3 years and have taught criminal and provincial laws, also becoming the services Police Vehicle Instructor. I am a Breathalyzer technician, a Drug Recognition Evaluator and a Traffic specialist. I am presently assigned to the Crime Prevention Office. I have two children, a daughter who attends university in New York City and a son in high school.

    Prisoner of War

    As we moved in the direction that we were ordered to move into, we could see what looked like a camp, looked like low lying black buildings. As we entered the gates of this compound, then we could hear the word, Buchenwald [concentration camp in Germany]. We were entering a very deadly, a very notorious concentration camp. As we entered the camp, we could see the people inside. And were greeted not physically, but surrounding the camp, walking around, and in the camp, were 45,000 walking skeletons.

    Roller Derby Player

    I’m an athlete who delivers hard hits on 8 wheels. Along with my teammates, I work hard to support the success of this Hamilton league, both off and on the track. Roller derby is not just about fishnets and funky names (though we do enjoy the fun). You’ll be surprised to learn what the life of a derby girl is really like.


Reader Guidelines:

  1. One sign-out is allowed in advance per reader. Walk-in sign-outs the day of the event are encouraged so please stick around if you’d like to chat with another book!
  2. Sign-outs are for 20 minutes, with a bit of buffer time.
  3. Conversations are one-on-one, unless the Book is comfortable speaking with group
  4. Renewals are allowed, as long as there is time!
  5. The discussions that take place during your Human Library session are confidential and should not be shared with other Readers or Human Books. If you are a journalist or a blogger and would like an interview with a Human Book, please see a staff person the day of the event.
  6. Please be respectful of each other while talking. Try not to interrupt and do not use offensive language.
  7. Either the Reader or the Human Book may end a session at any time should either party become uncomfortable
  8. The Book must be returned in the same physical and mental condition as borrowed. Do not cause any damage to the book.
  9. Come with an open mind!

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