The Human Library, a place where books come alive, is nothing like an ordinary library visit.
This particular sojourn allows the reader to “listen” to a spoken story. The experience does not stop just there. Once the chapters are heard, the reader does not have to go back home with unanswered questions peeking through their minds out of curiosity. They can hold a conversation with the book, ask questions and be answered to or even, get into a healthy debate with it.
In a conventional library setting, one selects a book to read. However, in Human Library, one picks a book that is in the form of a human who speaks to its readers. The human books narrate the stories of their lives to the readers. These stories usually revolve around subjects that are usually considered taboo by the society.
“The Human Library is an international organisation. It was developed in Copenhagen in 2000 by Ronni Abergel,” informs Upoma Rashid to Star Youth, co-founder of the Human Library Dhaka chapter.
Initially, the motto behind this initiative was to tackle violence through communication. With time, Human Library has branched out to diminish prejudice and stereotypes of any kind and become part of day to day life of its readers. Through communication, it welcomes the idea to nudge people's judgments and make them stop assuming someone else's situation.
“We often interpret situations according to our own experiences. However, Human Library gives people a chance to listen to other people and their struggles. We want the readers to know there can be other outcomes too,” expresses Upoma.
With the tagline “Don't judge a book by its cover”, the Human Library Dhaka chapter started operating officially from May 2017. It was founded by four young individuals called Upoma Rashid, Mushfiquzzaman Khan, Rifa Khan and Rafsanul Hoque. Within a span of only a year, the chapter arranged its third session on May 12, 2018, at Jatra Biroti, sponsored by EMK Center. The team has already decided to host its fourth session on July 28, 2018, with EMK as the sponsor again.
In every session, the Human Library accommodates ten books for the readers. The human books are selected on the basis of which stories are relevant and need the most attention at that time frame.
On the third session, three human books stood out from the crowd; “Wheeling between the life”, “Hope that will not die”, and “Sunset over my body”. The readers heard accounts of how a wheelchair cricketer struggled to make it to the top, how an 18-year-old college girl takes care of her life by teaching self-defense to young females, and how an undergraduate student battled through her experience of sexual harassment.
While some organisations may still be skeptical about becoming sponsors of such initiatives that address social movement and taboo subjects, the Human Library Dhaka team continues to create a positive impact on the society. With the target to go national and spread its libraries across Bangladesh, change in perception is bound to come.