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NAU Human Library

The Human Library exists to promote dialogue and inclusion towards persons who have experienced prejudice due to how they identify. This guide explains how NAU's Human Library assists in that mission and how faculty and students can participate.

The Human Library

Founded in 2001 in Denmark to promote human rights and social cohesion, a Human Library emphasizes empathy as a tool to create greater understanding between people, and provides an intentional space where people learn more about each other and work through stereotypes and discrimination present in their community in order to ultimately forge new connections between people.

A Human Library consists of “books” that are human. Each of these books volunteer to take part in the library and share their story. Like a regular library, the Human Library has a book jacket and description, and a “reader” can check out “books” on a topic that he/she/they may be interested in learning more about. For example, readers could learn about the experiences of NAU’s international students and faculty; individuals with disabilities; LGBTQIA people; and individuals who practice a particular religious faith. Readers who participate learn more about that person, their life and the challenges and stereotypes that they have overcome or presently face. Readers can check out books for a 20-minute period, during which time readers and books have a one-on-one conversation.

For more information about Human Libraries, check out the international Human Library site.

Human Library Books

What is a Human Library book?

  • A person who volunteers to talk about their life story.
  • Most human books have experienced prejudice and/or discrimination because of their identity or part of their identity.
  • Typically, a person chooses to be a book because they believe that their story can affect another person's understanding of a certain culture, subculture, or identity.

Should I be a book?

  • It depends. Do you feel that your experience can help others empathize with people who identify in ways similar to yourself?
  • Remember, a Human Library can be an emotionally challenging space. Consider what you are willing to discuss, what limits you have, and when or why you might need to opt out (NOTE: opting out is always okay!).

How can I prepare to be a book?

  • First, you need to sign up! Do so here: Human Book Registration Form.
  • Now, think about your story. What part (or parts) of your story can you tell in 20 minutes?
    • Remember: you don't need to tell us everything. Just talk about the stuff that will help others get to know you.
  • Consider stories that involve a dilemma or conflict you had to overcome.
    • Then reflect on how you can use that story to enrich another person's understanding.
  • Don't forget: your "readers" will probably have questions for you. Be ready to answer, especially when it comes to questions that might be uncomfortable or awkward.
    • Again, you can always opt out by choosing not to answer a question or by ending the conversation entirely.

Do you have any examples of Human Books?

  • Yes! The following are just a few titles selected by persons who have chosen to be human books:
  • Also, check out the video below for a quick run down about being a book at a Human Library:

Human Library Readers

What is a Human Library reader?

  • A person who chooses to hear stories of identity-based discrimination and/or prejudice as told from the people who experienced them. The people who tell their stories are called "books", and the people who listen and question are called "readers".
  • A person who is willing to admit that they feel bias or discomfort towards a certain group of people, and wants to confront that bias.
  • A person who has had questions about certain identities but has never felt that they could safely discuss those questions.

How do I become a reader?

  • Just show up! That's it! But you should also be ready to feel challenged, to empathize, to question, and to learn.
  • Also, you'll want to keep in mind that "books" are limited, so the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to find a book.