The Toronto Public Library’s latest initiative is about as low tech as it gets, but it’s sure to get people talking.
Starting this week, the Toronto Public Library’s human library gives patrons the opportunity to sit down for a 30-minute private conversation with a “human book”.
Anne Marie Aikins, manager of corporate communications at the library, suggests the project offers “the chance to learn about someone else’s life experience and viewpoint.”
Library staff recruited nearly 60 ‘human books’ to represent a diverse cross-section of Toronto for collections at six branches across the city.
Todd Klinck, a writer, former sex trade worker, activist, and nightclub owner, is part of the collection at the Toronto Reference Library. According to Klink, volunteering as a human book presents a new way to communicate his message.
“My work has always dealt with subculture, and nightlife and sex work and gender issues. I suppose those who’ll sign me out can talk to me about anything they want in terms of (those topics),” Klinck said.
For Kyle Vose, an AIDS and anti-poverty activist and HIV/AIDS survivor, participating as a human book at the North York Central branch allows him to reach out and support those who might live with similar challenges.
“When I first found out about my diagnosis I went through a depression and I met an activist who helped me through it,” Vose said. “I see what I’m doing now as giving back what I was given.
“It’s a way I can share my positive outlook.”
The concept behind the human library developed in the ’90s in Denmark in response to an upswing in youth violence. Over the past 10 years, the project has garnered support across the world. Though this will be its first appearance at the Toronto Public Library, those involved see tremendous value in the program and are optimistic about its results.
“Hopefully I’ll meet four or five interesting people and shed some light on something they didn’t know about, or just…have a nice human exchange with somebody,” Klinck said. “It’s always fascinating to meet a total stranger and talk about your perspective,” he added.
Vose suggests even one conversation has the potential for lasting change.
“It won’t just make a difference (for the reader). They have friends and neighbours that might benefit from their knowledge, too. Now, the people around them will know they have allies,” he said.
Aikins said the Human Library can be mutually informative and empowering experience.
“It takes a lot of courage for people to put their lives out to be explored. And it takes a lot of courage to take a book out, to learn about a different viewpoint… and see beyond a label in order to celebrate difference,” she said.
The Human Library takes place Saturday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit torontopubliclibrary.ca/human-library to review the catalogue of ‘human books’ and their locations, as well as instructions on how to place a hold.