The Human Library

Most of us are familiar with how a library works. But what happens when you replace the books… with people?

Splice’s Human Library seeks to find out. The Human Library is an event where members of the public (borrowers) can ‘issue out’ human ‘books’ with diverse perspectives, stories and lived experiences for a short amount of time.

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Festival for the Future 2016 was the first time Splice opened a Human Library. Maddy Dwyer, Project Manager and Creative Communicator said it was exciting to watch come together. “The first Human Library we did was only an hour long for the lunch time of a conference, and it

booked out within 5 minutes!” Once conversation started flowing, it was hard to stem. “We almost had to separate a few books and participants because they wanted to continue talking.”

Since 2016, Splice has run an additional 3 Human Library sessions, two focussing on specific sectors of the community that suffers discrimination.  The first offered conversations with people who have experienced homelessness while the second enlightened borrowers to life’s challenges after a HIV-positive diagnosis. A Human Library was held on Neighbour’s Day 2019 and more are planned for later in the year.

Maddy explains the origins of The Human Library. “‘Menneskebiblioteket’ as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 as a project for Roskilde Festival… The Human Library is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.”

The Human Library gives people the chance to meet and have conversations with people they may not otherwise interact with in everyday situations. “We were nervous about people’s reactions to being challenged so seeing the respect people paid each other was really heart-warming,” says Maddy.

“I was brought up with the rule “no religion and no politics” at the dinner table, and the disconnected echo chamber of social media only impresses more that being challenged and challenging others has to be a negative and avoidable experience. But here, we actually see joy and understanding coming out of this deliberate act of social rebellion.”

The Human Library brings together Splice’s values of radical hospitality and meaningfully connected communities. For Maddy, seeing discrimination and judgement being broken down in real time between people is a powerful experience, an event that Splice will continue to run in the future. “People really engage with each other and with challenging ideas, and they come away smiling.”