Our methodology

Don't judge a book by its cover!



In the Human Library you don't read books, but people. Interesting persons, whom you perhaps would not meet in your daily life. Is it correct what we think about them, based on the outside appearance? A refugee, a ex-hooligan, an ex-criminal, a transgender, a homeless person and a teen mother are there to tell you their story. In an open conversation, where everything can be asked. 

Are you ready to meet your 'prejudice'? The Human Library is a tested concept from Danish origin. It brings people together, in order to investigate and challenge prejudices. Just like a real library, where books provide an insight to unknown worlds, the Human Library offers its visitors the chance to step into the world of another person. In a very simple way: by providing a space for a frank conversation. 

How to borrow a book? 

  1. Go to a Human Library event
  2. Check the catalogue and choose a Book
  3. Register yourself at the Human Library desk
  4. A volunteer will introduce you to the Book
  5. You have 20 minutes to spend with the Book

There are volunteers on the spot to help you if needed. 

A voluntary conversation

Joining a Human Library is voluntary and readers have to be open for a conversation. It is a meeting, where the conversation can go any direction, but the basis of the conversation is the title (and with that the prejudice) of the human book, for example 'Homeless' or 'Transgender'. It is explicitly not meant as 'storytelling', but as a real dialogue. The reader will also speak and can ask specific questions. 

The rights of the book and the reader

  • Books and Readers have the right to be treated with respect.
  • Books and Readers have the right to ask any question.
  • Books and Readers have the right not to answer a question if they do not want to. 
  • Books and Readers have the right to end a conversation if they wish to. 
  • Readers do not have the right to take a Book outside. 
  • Readers do not have the right to bend or tear pages, to annotate or to take notes, and must return the Book in the same physical and mental condition in which it was issued. 

Complementary rules

  • Only registered readers who accept and comply with Human Library rules can borrow Books. 
  • Human Library is free of charge. 
  • If a Book you would like to borrow is unavailable, please choose another book or wait until a free session. Basically you cannot reserve Books. 
  • Two readers may borrow the same book at the same time only if they know each other. However, the specific Book must agree to this. 
  • Only one Book can be borrowed at a time. 
  • If the Book you would like to read is in a language you do not understand, you can ask for a dictionary (an interpreter). 
  • The reader is obliged to return the Book in good mental and physical condition. Violence, swearing and offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Any hint of such conduct will entail expulsion from the Human Library event. 
  • Everyone over the age of 14 may borrow Books. Readers under this age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

Goals of the Human Library

  • Creating a space of dialogue and understanding
  • Promoting respect for Human Rights
  • Passing knowledge and experience of people exposed to discrimination, stereotyping, prejudices and exclusion
  • Shaping attitudes of openness and acceptance towards 'otherness'. 

About prejudices

At the Human Library we assume that everybody has prejudices. Which is a normal thing. It has to do with categorization: all information (what your senses capture) you have to process, has to be 'judged' and put in a certain box, in other words: organized. With this in mind, it can be seen as a survival mechanism. Without categorization, probably you would go crazy. But awareness is very important. When you are aware of certain prejudices you might have, you can change your actions. Then knowledge is the key. And that is exactly what we are working on at the Human Library. By bringing people from different living environments together, people learn from each other. It leads to a unique exchange of thoughts and usually to mutual understanding. 

Quality and integrity

As the scientific scientific research about the Human Library proved, already a short conversation can have a big impact.  But the quality of the conversation is important. To set up a a high quality Human Library has more to it then you might expect and it takes quite some preparation time. Underneath you find some important principles. 

The Human Library Organization, the Danish foundation behind the inventors of the concept, as certified Human Library NL to organize Human Libraries in the Netherlands. 

At every edition we ask the readers to fill out an evaluation form. Via this way we get feedback and an impression of the impact. Please find specific evaluation reports here. There was also a scientific research about the method. 

Every edition produces its own catalogue, with all book titles and per book a short explanation, meant for the readers, to get an impression of the book. 

All books and volunteers take part in a training beforehand, so they know what to expect and how they can work together. Also they practice the conversations. 

Physical and mental safety of the participants of the Human Library is very important. The readers need to register, all books have a personal volunteer guide and we keep an eye on the conversation from a short distance. 

Human Library NL does its best to make the event accessible for everybody, in particular persons with a certain challenge. The communication is mostly bilingual (Dutch and English). 

The Human Library does not concentrate around one particular group, but covers a wide range of topics. Every book deals with a certain set of prejudices, which can have something to do with ethnicity, sexuality, profession, religion, social status, lifestyle or health situation. 

The Human Library is not meant as a meeting with an interesting person. Every book must have a connection to a certain stereotype. The titles of the books reflect a wide range of prejudices. 

External pressure
No books are excluded because of external pressure. 

The Human Library does not have a political, religious or commercial view and it does not connect itself to organizations who do not match with the idealistic goals. 

Contact details
Contact details of books are never shared with outside parties. 

Books or other volunteers do not get paid for their participation.  

More information

For more information, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.  

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