We learn from stories, and everyone has a story to share. This is the premise of the Human Library Project, which aims to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices, and encourage understanding by providing “people on loan” or “living books.” You come in, take a look at the catalog, and request a living book with whom you can chat or interview. The list of living books includes titles such as homeless, lesbian, politician, graffiti artist, refugee, and so on.

The Human Library Project began in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000. Since then, human libraries have been introduced in over 45 countries, providing opportunities for visitors to interact with individuals of diverse backgrounds and histories. Read more about their mission and activities on the Human Library website.

Libraries have always been centers of knowledge, education, and community, and human libraries are offering a unique service. In a time and age when people no longer know their neighbors and more communication is conducted via cyberspace than face to face, encouraging more personal dialogue and interaction is more important than ever.

How often have you looked at someone and wondered what his or her story is? Exercising your imagination is a wonderful thing of course, but the truth may be even more interesting than you could have ever imagined. All you have to do is introduce yourself and ask.

Image by Voula Monoholias, first seen here.