The Human Library: challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue

Welcome to the Human Library, a library of human books where you can come and have a comfortable dialogue about often uncomfortable topics.

Coming to Cambridge for the first time, The Human Library was created in the year 2000 in Copenhagen by Ronni Abergel, Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen as an initiative to a big Danish festival.

It started as a social experiment to see if we could create a space where people would walk in and borrow a stranger for a conversation about a challenging topic. The very first Human Library was open eight hours a day for four days straight and we published over 50 different topics and more than 1000 Readers took advantage of this. 

A volunteer writes the list of "books" available on a chalk board.

A volunteer writes the list of "books" available on a chalk board. Credit: The Human Library

A volunteer writes the list of "books" available on a chalk board. Credit: The Human Library

The Human Library is an international NGO working to help communities become more inclusive and understanding of our diversity. They create safe spaces for personal dialogue about topics that are often difficult, challenging and stigmatizing for those affected. It is a hands-on learning platform where difficult questions are welcomed and answered by people with a lived experience. All of our Books are people who volunteer to share their experiences with our Readers. 

Andrea Trudslev, author at the Human Library, said “We wanted to give those who are misunderstood and negatively judged an opportunity to explain who they are and we wanted readers to engage in conversations they might not normally would have.”

“Our goal is to create a safe space where people can learn about and explore diversity. We offer an opportunity for people to unjudge someone, find common ground or agree to disagree. All people look to be understood and once we better understand why and how people are different, then it is less scary and much easier to accept.”

Founder Ronny Abergel recalls the upsetting events which let him to start Stop the Violence in response to stabbings of young men in Copenhagen back in the early 1990s, including a friend. “We felt compelled to try and do something about it. We talked to young kids from many different backgrounds and I saw the impact we had on especially young boys. After a change in government, they decided to cancel funding for 133 organizations and we were one of them.”

Unfortunately after eight years of work, Stop the Violence had to close and the Human Library was born.

“I saw the impact it had on people and how well it performed, so I decided to take it from there and try to fulfil its global potential. And here we are, 22 years later, thriving more than ever.”

The Human Library will open its doors on Saturday 25 March between 10am-3pm at Cambridge Central Library in the Lion Yard Shopping Centre.

Come along and have a chat with a Book (all questions are welcome without judgement) or just chat to us about the concept and perhaps get involved.

Human Library Founder Ronni Abergel

Human Library Founder Ronni Abergel. Credit: The Human Library

Human Library Founder Ronni Abergel. Credit: The Human Library

A slogan, "unjudge someone" at a human library event

Credit: The Human Library

Credit: The Human Library