University of Rochester
Books and libraries and human beings…
I finally got around to reading my May/June issue of Poets & Writers.
In it is a story about people who declare themselves as names of books. Not names of books that already exist, though there is a place for that, but names of books of stories only they can tell – and use to provoke.
The Human Library was started in the year 2000 in Denmark as a mode of gathering people together in public spaces such as libraries to interact within their communities, to create a safe place where community members can communicate and hear stories from those in their communities they might not normally meet.
The University of Rochester created a safe place in Rochester, NY where people could tell each other stories based on the book they have titled themselves – titles such as “You Can’t Shave in a Minimart Bathroom” and “Vietnam Veteran.” At the events, the “book” is the identity of the person and with that, Human Library has also emphasized a new form of storytelling. Please look up Human Library and read more about it. Maybe your community is perfect for such an event. You could use your local library maybe… 🙂
I think this is a great idea.
My thinking of Human Library sparks a memory from the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, still read as much as ever, still questioned from time to time and just celebrated its 60th Anniversary last year (2013). In that novel, we follow the protagonist who decides he must read books even though all books have been banned. In fact, they are burned. The protagonist is a Fireman, he starts fires to burn books instead of putting them out. At the end of the novel, the multitude of characters who have found ways of getting away from the government, don’t seem to care about books as physical objects (paper at the time of its publication). They have taken a new approach to keeping the great works of literary artifice alive. These characters memorize whole books and then become known as the title of the book they memorized. Maybe the Human Library was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s great novel. Who knows? But what I do know is that if people gathered to tell their novels, their stories, this would be an entirely new idea of the “book club” wouldn’t it?
Books can be burned, eBooks can be removed from devices at the whims of content providers (huh hmmm Amazon), and publishers can go out of business (or consolidate and merge until there is one content provider to rule them all (huh hmmm Amazon), but people are way more messy to put away and remove from circulation…
I see the Human Library as a revolutionary approach to stories, “writing,” the spreading of language through verbal and personal contact as well as an example of provocative intersectionality.*
Thank you for reading.
*Please contact to chat about intersectionality.