Reducing violence with Human Libraries


Violence, the action of wanting to hurt someone or to damage something, the action that drives a lot of people in this world to act, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil. In the spring of 2000 in Denmark, a violent act against a young man drove his friends to start a project to stop violence called The Human Library.

A Human Library is a room filled with people of different backgrounds willing to be an open book for anyone who wishes to read and listen a different perspective. A biography is provided to the readers of the individual and after reading it and being interested, one can check out the person for a couple of minutes to have a respectful and peaceful “conversation that challenges stereotypes”.

The Human Library was created by Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen and Ronni Abergel, friends of a young man that was stabbed one night. They decided to do more to reduce the violence in Denmark.

There was already an organization in Copenhagen, Denmark by the name of “Stop the Violence” and The Human Libraries started as a way to bring awareness and to diminish violence amongst youth. The program brought together different types of people and they shared their experiences in order to foster more openness and share perspectives. After a couple of years there were over 30,000 members.

Skyline college has hosted The Human Library in the past. A chance is given to both students and professors to participate, and this year they will be having one each month from October until April.

The human libraries in the event are actually people. Skyline College Librarian Mary Torres Volken described the human libraries as coming from “a variety of backgrounds, [people] who went through prejudice”.

“[This is] an opportunity to have conversations with people of different backgrounds” said Torres Volken.

It is not a place for attacking each other or discriminating but a place to learn where others come from, meaning that there are guidelines for those who wish to “loan” an individual.

Anyone can be a book in a Human Library, it isn’t just the older generations who have lived longer. Everyone has a story and challenges that they have faced in their lives that makes them who they are. Students or staff can be a volunteer book for a Human Library. There is a form for those who are interested in participating in the upcoming events at the library this year. For more information about the form you can go to one of the librarians.

The Human library has variety, no one is denied the opportunity. Last year our President Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud was a participant as well as Professor Mustafa Popal, who is a refugee from Afghanistan.

Skyline college student Alyssa Aleman shared her opinion on Human Libraries and the upcoming events at the Skyline College library.

“I think that it is a good idea that they have that for students because many of us are trying to understand what is going on in the world, and with the help of that it will give us a better understanding,” Aleman said. “I would be interested in going to upcoming events if it fits my schedule.”

The world is going through difficult times and listening is one of the many ways in which solutions and understandings can be reached, making The Human Library an interesting event to attend.