Bringing Humanity into Libraries
by Angela Piccola, Senior Editor
Libraries function as a common ground to nurture knowledge and foster community. The idea of the library being a brick and mortar storage house for books has shifted in the new digital age. What more can we do as a profession other than to provide answers to reference questions and offer insightful suggestions for books?
A face-to-face confidant in the adventure for answers and a building that is filled with technology is one of the many ways to maintain relevancy in this instant gratification age. The modern day library has now gone full circle to be the realm of infinite possibilities. Librarians have to be the Jack or Jane of all trades to accommodate the varying needs of their patrons.
Human services are becoming more prominent throughout communities to address needs. For the past few weeks at my library, every Tuesday volunteers would come in to help community members with taxes and submitting tax documentation. I have seen other libraries offer resume builder workshops, career fairs, and other career assistance. More technology savvy libraries offer creative spaces for writers and artists to work on projects.
My favorite project is the human library where people can have first-hand knowledge and perspective for someone else in their community. The human library is a form of circulation with people as “books” and the readers get to know more about the lives of these human books.
This movement has been around since 2000, but it has been interesting to see the new ways libraries adopt new versions to best serve their communities. It aids individuals in asking the tough questions they may never have the courage to ask. It offers a safe surrounding to express ideas without feeling threatened for their life choices. A human book is a person who volunteers their time to share life experiences. Libraries have become facilities to harbor conversations between different religions, races, and cultures. Imagine a world where a library can be used to have conversations on the subjects such as religion and race.
The success of the organization’s reach is distinguished noting that several countries now host their own human library. This is the first type of its program to be able to connect so many people by offering a way to interact without outside judgment affecting the conversation.
Learn What Your Community Needs
I would love to see this expanded even more to checkout astronauts, authors, business owners, and others to fully develop a community experience of ideas. The programs could help to engage different ages to interact transgenerational into a wonderful tapestry of stories and perspective. Each community is different, but the original idea of this program was to aid in connection of one human being to another without judgment. Depending on your demographics you could host military history books for a military library or doctors on different research departments in a medical library. The point is to provide opportunity for conversation that would otherwise not come in to play because the “book” and the “reader” would never interact.
Thinking Outside the Box
What other ways can we engage our audiences and communities through these types of programs? Use great programs for inspiration and host your own event or use an organization like the Human Library to inspire you to go in a different direction. Find out what would have the greatest impact on your community.