A powerful and provocative new program that was first presented in Denmark in 2000 and has been replicated internationally finally arrived in the United States last month. In October the Bainbridge Island branch of the Kitsap Regional Library System in Washington State and the Santa Monica Public Library in Los Angeles County, California both presented the Living Library program to their patrons.
The Living Library is an innovative project designed to promote dialogue and reduce prejudices. It gives patrons the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan” in order to challenge stereotypes and prejudices in a very personal and positive manner. These “living books” represent a wide range of ages, genders and cultural background and can be “checked out” by patrons for one-to-one or group discussions.
For example, the Bainbridge Island living books covered such diverse topics as life as a quadriplegic, a female police officer, a young gay man and an atheist, and the 14 Santa Monica Library “books” included a former homeless woman, two Buddhists, a raw-food expert, a feminist and a nudist (clothed). Both events were very well-received and each drew in over a hundred participants.
For more information about the Living Library program, see their website at http://living-library.org. Also check out articles in Library Journal and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and on MSNBC.com, and listen to an interview from KUOW, the Pacific Northwest’s NPR affiliate.