social capital noun. the value of our social networks & relationships

The Human Library

Published by Jenna Francis on

On a crisp and sunny Saturday morning earlier this month, the Woburn Public Library and SCI Woburn joined together to bring a wonderfully  unique experience to the people of Woburn.  As people young and old gathered near the cozy fireplace in the Frizzell Study Hall walls were broken down, hearts were opened and minds were awakened.  

The Human Library is an international organization and grassroots movement that began in Copenhagen, Denmark almost two decades ago.  The goal of the movement is to bring awareness to and judgement away from lifestyles, experiences and circumstances that may have been marginalized or stigmatized.  Since 2000 The Human Library has been run in over 70 countries including a few permanent exhibits.  

The Woburn Public Library and SCI Woburn have teamed up on a number of projects designed to foster an inclusive and welcoming community, including the highly successful Cultural Connections project. Partnering to implement the Human Library project, with its focus on reducing prejudice and debunking stereotypes, was a natural. SCI was happy to join our local library when they had an opportunity to bring the program to our community. Special thanks to Library Assistant Director Rebecca Meehan for her efforts to bring the Human Library to our area.

The idea of The Human Library uses the analogy of people as books.  The event planners seek individuals who have a “story” to tell and during the event the “stories” are stocked at the library for guests to “check out” and have a one on one conversation with them.  Woburn’s event brought an incredible variety of people.  One “story” was of a man who served 19 years in prison only to be exonerated by DNA evidence.  Another,  a mother who suffered with drug and alcohol abuse, gave up her children and lived on the streets but has now been clean for a number of years and has reunited with her children. There was a high school Muslim hoping for more kindness and acceptance, a Woburn man who dedicated his life to the ministry in mid life, a woman who learned quite young that she was an addict and has lived almost 20 years of sobriety now breaking generations of destructive behavior.  The hall was filled with voices as strangers chatted and became friends, neighbors learned about and from each other and people were able to be vulnerable and tell their stories and feel heard.  

The Woburn Public Library and SCI Woburn are hoping to hold other Human Library events in the future to further the vision of reducing stereotypes and discrimination in our community and in the world.