Reading people like you would read a book: that was possible last Thursday during the Human Library event, organised by Academic Forum, and student associations Animo and Complex. The human ‘books’ were people that have to deal with prejudices of all sorts. They have ADHD, a bipolar disorder or have fled from Syria. Visitors could talk to them during the afternoon.
During Human Library, people could choose from the ‘books’ Syrian refugee, gay Theology student, former psychiatric patient, and outspoken Christian, to name a few. After policy officer Peter Maarleveld attached a sign with ‘on loan’ to the wall, visitors were free to choose a book and have a conversation with someone for twenty minutes. A lot of them spoke to multiple people and used the extra ten minutes they could get at the end of each conversation.
The Human Library is a Danish concept, meant to fight prejudice and improve social cohesion. According to Laura van Ostaden from student association Complex, this first edition was supposed to show if the concept is successful. The results were promising, she says: “we saw that people were moved by the stories of others. Their feelings about people changed during the afternoon.” She had a similar experience herself. “I spoke to a woman who was an outspoken Christian. I was wondering about her views on science, expecting her to not accept some scientific research. It shows that you can have prejudices without knowing it.”
Because of the success of this first edition, the organizers think about organizing a bigger event in March, during the national book week. The Tilburg library has showed its interest in the event.
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