10 April 2007


Mount Barker's living library
by Ian Hildebrand [Mount Barker Community Library, South Australia, Australia], inCite 28(4):19, April 2007.

“On Australia Day 2007 the Mount Barker Community Library invited residents to borrow a Living Book from South Australia’s first Living Library. The aims of a Living Library are to bring people into contact with someone they might not meet or associate with in their ordinary day-to-day-life, to break down barriers and dissolve stereotypes.

“Readers of the Living Library could check out a Living Book for a half-hour chat, and ask questions about that person’s life. Some of the ‘Books’ in the Living Library were people representing groups frequently confronted with prejudices and stereotypes. Others were South Australians with interesting life stories to share. Living book titles at the Mount Barker Living Library included old people; hippies; a human rights activist; a human zoo participant and animal rights activist; an indigenous woman; a Jewish couple, a Muslim, a Catholic nun, a Chilean refugee, a Vietnam war orphan and a witch.

“All books got a good reading with at least seven loans per title. Best sellers were the Muslim (29 loans); indigenous woman (19 loans); witch (18 loans) refugee (15 loans) and Vietnamese war orphan (13 loans). In total, the 16 Living Books received 152 loans from 58 registered readers during the five-hour duration of the Living Library.

“Lismore [New South Wales] was the first Australian library I know of to hold [a Living Library event] (November 2006). Bayside in Victoria have on planned for Library Week this year (Mount Barker’s second one will also be held during Library Week 2007). A Living Library was held at the Malmo [Sweden] festival in 2005 and they have been operating at youth festivals in Denmark since 2000."

What a great idea! A corporate library could let customers “check out” a vice-president for a chat; a hospital could “circulate” top administrators; a law firm could do the same for partners. You get the idea.

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