Saint Paul's Human Library

by Kit Hadley | Mar 22, 2012
| 1 Comment

Summary:

We propose to host a Saint Paul Human Library at sites throughout the community. At a Human Library, people check out “living books.” A “living book” is an individual who volunteers to be “lent” to a “borrower” for questions and conversation. The “living books” are typically individuals from a particular group, usually a group about which stereotypes, prejudices, or unfamiliarity exists. The Human Library movement began in Denmark by a group of teens as an anti-violence response to the stabbing of a friend. The Human Library is designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudice, and encourage understanding. Human Libraries have been held throughout the world, but very few in the United States. Saint Paul’s rich ethnic and religious diversity is a great asset, but we need to get to know each other better. Saint Paul’s Human Library would enable residents to meet their neighbors from different religious and ethnic backgrounds: speakers of Karen, Spanish, English, Tigrinya; observers of Baha’i, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam. How many of us have had a conversation with a fellow Saint Paulite about whose religion or ethnic background we know nothing? Yet walking in someone else’s shoes for even a short time is a road to strengthening understanding and unity among all residents of Saint Paul. Saint Paul’s Human Library will be planned by a youth-adult team. Equally involving teens and adults in organizing the Saint Paul Human Library will enrich the event and demonstrate the importance of youth engagement to civic life in Saint Paul.

About You

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About You

First Name

Kit

Last Name

Hadley

Country

United States, MN

City

St. Paul

Innovation

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Title

Saint Paul's Human Library

What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community?

We propose to host a Saint Paul Human Library at sites throughout the community. At a Human Library, people check out “living books.” A “living book” is an individual who volunteers to be “lent” to a “borrower” for questions and conversation. The “living books” are typically individuals from a particular group, usually a group about which stereotypes, prejudices, or unfamiliarity exists. The Human Library movement began in Denmark by a group of teens as an anti-violence response to the stabbing of a friend. The Human Library is designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudice, and encourage understanding. Human Libraries have been held throughout the world, but very few in the United States. Saint Paul’s rich ethnic and religious diversity is a great asset, but we need to get to know each other better. Saint Paul’s Human Library would enable residents to meet their neighbors from different religious and ethnic backgrounds: speakers of Karen, Spanish, English, Tigrinya; observers of Baha’i, Judaism, Catholicism, Islam. How many of us have had a conversation with a fellow Saint Paulite about whose religion or ethnic background we know nothing? Yet walking in someone else’s shoes for even a short time is a road to strengthening understanding and unity among all residents of Saint Paul. Saint Paul’s Human Library will be planned by a youth-adult team. Equally involving teens and adults in organizing the Saint Paul Human Library will enrich the event and demonstrate the importance of youth engagement to civic life in Saint Paul.

Impact and Sustainability

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How will your idea have a positive impact on your community?

Positive Impact
A Saint Paul Human Library will have a positive impact with four levels of engagement. The youth-adult planning group, whose members will be from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, will plan together over a number of months. They will get to know each other and demonstrate by example the value of working across differences. A second level of impact will be the volunteer living books who will be trained as a group, and become acquainted with each other and the planning group. The Human Library events – which may occur one-at-a-time over a period of months or simultaneously at many locations throughout the City – will attract the public who will either participate by borrowing a living book or observe and, likely, engage in discussion with others. Finally, the promotions leading up to the Human Library will include traditional and social media and will be structured to encourage community dialogue and exchange.

The process of planning and preparing for the Human Library will offer many different ways for individuals, faith communities, cultural organizations, community groups, or associations of neighbors to become engaged. They might provide volunteers to be “living books” or help out at the events. They might commit some of their group to borrow living books. They might organize an in-person or on-line exchange before or after the event. The Human Library builds on the powerful and positive association that most people have with libraries, but broadens it from the rich world of ideas to include the rich community of Saint Paul residents.

What do you think the lasting effect will be if your idea is implemented?

Lasting Effect
Once we demonstrate how a Human Library can be planned, organized and held, it will be easily replicable, at either a bigger or smaller scale. On a smaller scale, using a Human Library approach could be organized for no cost. Organizations or congregations could use the Human Library approach to address internal issues or to strengthen working relationships with community partners. In other places in the world, the Human Library has been used to address noncontroversial but important community needs, for example, as part of career or job fairs.

The $15,000 will fund a part-time organizer and the costs of promotions and materials. The Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL) will provide oversight as part of our purpose to strengthen engaged communities. The cost to sponsor a Saint Paul Human Library is relatively low so that raising funds in the future to replicate it at a large scale is feasible. The Friends of SPPL has a long, successful history of helping the Library raise funds for important initiatives.

Engaging existing networks and organizations in the planning and preparation will contribute to ensuring a lasting impact. Among these are the Saint Paul Youth Commission, the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches, Sprockets, Youthrive and Wilder’s Youth Leadership Initiative. SPPL’s community liaisons - native speakers of Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Karen, Oromo, Amharic, who teach basic computer skills and offer storytimes to families – will be a valuable network for connecting with different cultural communities. Individuals and groups involved in planning and organizing the Human Library will learn about the approach and will be able to adapt it and use it in the future on their own issues.

Nichole Downing said: I think this is a great idea, especially if we could get some schools involved that would have students utilize this. I remember having ... about this Competition Entry. - 2666 days ago read more >

Kit Hadley submitted this idea. - 2672 days ago