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Bridging differences through dialogue: Preliminary findings of the outcomes of the Human Library in a university setting

2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
Bridging Differences through Dialogue: Preliminary Findings of the
Outcomes of the Human Library in a University Setting
Kazuhiro Kudo, Yuri Motohashi, Yuki Enomoto, Yuki Kataoka and Yusaku Yajima
Dokkyo University, Saitama, Japan
The Human Library, initially developed by the
Danish NGO ‘Stop the Violence’ in 2000, is now
held in more than 40 countries, with the aim of
promoting intercultural understanding through
dialogue. Japan is no exception, with an increasing
number of universities, NPOs, NGOs and
corporations organising the Library as an exercise
in diversity training and intercultural education.
This paper provides a first-person narrative of
preparation, challenges and success of a one-day
Human Library administered by 30 undergraduate
students and their supervisor at a Japanese
university. It reports preliminary findings of the
outcomes of the Library, including increased
knowledge and empathy of ‘readers’ (listeners),
increased self-reflexivity of ‘books’ (storytellers)
and transcendence of the Self–Other imaginations
of ‘librarians’ (student organisers). The findings
support the raison d’être of the Human Library as a
bridge between people of different backgrounds
and as a powerful instrument to nurture students’
capacities to act on differences. The possibilities
and limits of holding the Human Library in a
campus setting are also considered.
Introduction to the Human Library
The Human Library, initially developed by the
Danish NGO ‘Stop the Violence’ in 2000, is now
held in more than 40 countries, with the aim of
promoting intercultural understanding through
dialogue. The Human Library website states the
In its initial form the Human Library is a
mobile library set up as a space for
dialogue and interaction. Visitors to a
Human Library are given the opportunity
to speak informally with ‘people on
loan’; this latter group being extremely
varied in age, sex and cultural
The Human Library enables groups to
break stereotypes by challenging the
most common prejudices in a positive
and humorous manner. It is a concrete,
easily transferable and affordable way of
promoting tolerance and understanding
In Japan, the first Human Library was launched in
Kyoto in 2008, by the initiative of Living Library
Japan, which is stationed at the University of
Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and
Technology. Since then, an increasing number of
universities, NPOs, NGOs and corporations have
shown interest in the Library as an exercise in
diversity training and intercultural education. As of
1 March 2011, the Human Library has been held 18
times in Japan.
In this paper, four students and their supervisor (the
first author) at a Japanese university provide a
first-person narrative of their preparation,
challenges, and success of Dokkyo Human Library,
which was open during the university festival in
October 2010. (Note that the event was then called
‘Dokkyo Living Library’, as we followed the
accepted practice of the Living Library Japan. In
that year a copyright issue was raised by an
American company named Living Library, and at
present the original Danish name ‘Menneske
Biblioteket’ is officially and more accurately
translated as ‘Human Library’.) Despite its great
potential to create intergroup harmony as well as to
foster rapid growth on a global scale, the Human
Library has thus far gained only modest scholarly
attention. For this reason, we write this paper in a
descriptive tone to allow readers to follow the
reflective path that 30 students and one faculty
organiser took to conduct this event. Primarily, this
paper aims to report preliminary findings of the
outcomes of the Library in a campus setting, to
trigger theoretical and practical discussions for
further developments of the Human Library in
Japan and the world.
The Dokkyo Human Library project was conducted
between May 2010 and March 2011. It was
initiated as part of an upper-level undergraduate
seminar on intercultural communication. The
course was designed to enhance students’
understanding of the dynamic interplay between
culture and communication, particularly from the
viewpoints of personal growth and change through
face-to-face interactions. In this respect, the
Kudo, K., Motohashi, Y., Enomoto, Y., Kataoka, Y., & Yajima, Y. (2011). Bridging differences through dialogue: Preliminary findings of the outcomes of the
Human Library in a university setting.
Proceedings of the 2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS)
[CD-ROM], 17-20 August,
2011, Crowne Plaza Shanghai Fudan, Shanghai, China.
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
concept of the Human Library was consistent with
the aim of this course, as the Library would not
only bring new people together but also promote
understanding between people of various
backgrounds who rarely meet in daily life.
The execution of the event comprised three stages:
preparation, opening of the Library and post hoc
evaluation. As ‘librarians (organisers), our task
was to recruit ‘books’ (storytellers), to raise funds
to cover expenses and to advertise the event to
attract ‘readers’ (listeners). During the preparation
period, which lasted for six months (May–October),
we faced three major difficulties: recruiting books,
fundraising, and sustaining the motivation of
student organisers. As regards advertising, we held
an optimistic view that the general public would
come to our campus festival, while we promoted
our Library through the internet blog, academic and
professional organisation mailing lists, and flyers
and posters circulated in schools and shops near the
2,463. This is the total number of emails that one of
our student organisers sent and received, in order to
open Dokkyo Human Library. We needed the
engagement and active involvement of many
people who could understand and collaborate, to
achieve our vision. That is, we needed to promote
our vision to promote intercultural understanding
through dialogue, while constantly soliciting the
cooperation of others. For this purpose, we decided
to create a catchy statement of our aim, and after
hours of discussion, we established ‘Discovering
the unknown self’ as the theme of Dokkyo Human
Library. The theme reflected the self-forming
nature of intercultural encounters [2] and coincided
with the notion of ‘intersubjective storytelling’, in
which each storyteller’s individual agency becomes
dependent on others’ agency and thus becomes ‘I
am me, through you’ [3, p. 167].
Our preparation started with the recruitment of
books. We relied on a practical guide to the Human
Library, which suggests a brainstorming session
that involves listing on a flipchart those people who
face prejudices and stereotyping in our society [4].
Thus, 30 students started to search for so-called
‘minority’ people who the ‘majority’ people hardly
meet. However, this minority–majority distinction
seemed to us inappropriate and even discriminatory,
because the term ‘minority’ is usually associated
with a lower social status [5]. We then came up
with the idea of calling them ‘unique’ instead of
‘minority’; yet, our feeling of awkwardness did not
diminish by this simple relabeling. Many of our
student members thought that ‘they’ (the
minorities/unique) were very different and distant
from ‘us’ (the majority). We also positioned
ourselves in the dichotomy of ‘us within university’
and ‘them outside university’. The discourse of
such a student–worker distinction is pervasive in
Japan, as people tend to believe that university
students, after going through a moratorium period
on campus, turn into shakaijin, full-fledged
members of the society or the job market [6].
The challenge was solved by changing our
perception of ourselves by contacting various
NPOs and associations. Most of us struggled to
recruit books until we realised that ‘they’ have
common interests and values with ‘us’. They may
be blind and unable to walk, or they may have a
particular type of appearance or career. However,
by listening to their life histories, many of us came
to realise that they live just the way we live, and
they even tell jokes. After this awakening, or
transcending of difference, occurred, the
psychological barrier we had constructed in our
minds disappeared, and we could communicate
much better and more easily with the prospective
Overall, we approached 21 organisations (i.e.
NPOs, NGOs, volunteer groups, corporations, and
governments) and nine individuals who we found
on the web and through word-of-mouth
introductions. We were aware that most people
would not become books unless they found some
merits in doing so. We therefore attempted to offer
advantages from their standpoint. For example, we
told them the following advantages:
The Human Library is a good place to
promote your work. [NPOs]
The Human Library provides people with
opportunities to know you and to
reconsider what a society should be like.
The Human Library may contribute to the
improvement of the public’s image of who
and what you are. [Japan’s Defence
Through much persuasion and negotiation, we
finally recruited the following 18 books:
an albino patient, an alopecia patient, a
person with a ‘unique face’ (angioma), a
blind person, a blind soccer player, a
commissioner of an NPO on wheelchairs,
the family of a person who had
committed suicide, two sexual minorities,
a global tourist, two foreign residents, a
house husband, a Buddhist nun, a voice
actor of silent movies, and three officials
of Japan’s Self-Defence Force.
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
Some of them came from the local community,
whereas the others came from distant areas. Each
book was given instructions on the Human Library
by two or three students, who helped to make a title
and storyline of reading sessions (i.e.
conversations) through face-to-face or mediated
(e.g. email or telephone) contact. We attempted to
keep regular contact with the books to hear and
relieve their concerns and worries as storytellers.
A second central issue of the preparation was
raising funds. Although the participation of the
books in Dokkyo Human Library was voluntary,
we still required approximately ¥100,000
(US$1,200) to cover expenses for public transport
of the books and for refreshments. Because of the
recent economic recession as well as people’s
unfamiliarity with the Human Library, our attempt
to raise monetary sources through door-to-door
tactics was not as successful as we had initially
hoped. We attempted to approach our university,
but the university did not have a policy to offer
grants for events organised by a single class. Then,
we asked our university alumni for donations by
writing them letters, and this method was
A third major difficulty of the preparation was to
sustain our own motivation as organisers for a long
period. There were times when many students
struggled to cooperate with others who showed
varying degrees of motivation and actual
commitment to the Human Library project. Initially,
most of the 30 students were not familiar with the
Human Library itself; because of other personal
and academic interests and commitments and partly
because of inadequate circulation of information
among organisers, many students made fewer
contributions than a limited number of highly
motivated students. As a result, in-group
cooperation was difficult. However, the group
maintained a certain degree of collaboration with
strong leadership, and a few small events such as a
mock Human Library involving the alumni and
in-class interviews with prospective books
significantly helped to raise morale.
Dokkyo Human Library
Dokkyo Human Library opened in a new classroom
building in October 2010. Before the first reading
session began, we held a 30-minute orientation for
the books. The content included self-introductions
of librarians and books and reconfirmation of
reading rules. Then, at 10 a.m. the first registration
began. Readers came to the reception, and the
librarians explained to each reader the rules of the
Human Library, including reading books with care
and respect and preserving their privacy. We asked
each reader to agree to these rules and sign a
consent form. After signing it, the readers reserved
a book. After placing their reservation, they went to
a room where the book awaited and participated in
a reading. On that single day, a total of 16 books
and 72 readers (121 gross registrants) partook in
the Library. (Note that two Books withdrew from
participation because a typhoon hit the university
area two days before the Library began and their
intermediary judged it better not to send them.)
Each reading session lasted 30 minutes. We
provided not only dialogue sessions (1–3 readers
per book) but also lecture sessions (1–50 readers
per book). We held two types of sessions to
maximise opportunities for readers to meet the
books. In the dialogue sessions, both books and
readers could engage in heart-to-heart
conversations. In the lecture session, a larger
number of readers, including those who could not
reserve books, could listen and talk to the books in
a question-and-answer format, prompted by
We also attempted to promote off-session dialogue
among books, readers, and librarians by providing
opportunities for socialisation. Around noon, the
books and some librarians had a lunch break
together in the same open space. A courtesy
lunchbox was provided for each book. This
relaxation time and space particularly helped the
books to talk to other books and share their
experiences as storytellers and active agents of
everyday life. Concurrently, a group of librarians
gave an introductory lecture about the Human
Library in a different room, with a focus on the
history of the Library and its missions, for the
readers and general attendees of the university
festival who happened to be in the vicinity of the
At 3 p.m. all reading sessions ended. Then, we held
a reflection session, in which all the books,
voluntarily solicited readers, and selected librarians
(approximately 30 people in total) talked for 90
minutes in small groups about the possible effects
of the Human Library. The main discussion
question was what these participants could discover
from the one-day event. Primarily, the books and
readers were asked to exchange opinions about
what they thought or felt during conversations.
Also addressed was the theme of Dokkyo Human
Library: ‘Discover the unknown self’. At the heart
of this reflection was the belief that experience
alone is not sufficient, because it is both awareness
of experiencing otherness and ability to analyse the
experience and act upon the insights that are
essential to promoting intercultural understanding
or ‘being intercultural’ [7, p. 4].
Finally, we held a party to facilitate greater
interactions among all the participants as well as to
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
express our gratitude to the books who made vital
contributions to the Library. The party attendees
enjoyed refreshments and informal conversations in
a more relaxed mood. The function and thus the
entire event ended around 7 p.m.
The literature shows that a majority of readers and
books express favourable comments about their
experience of the Human Library [8] [9]. Some
discuss the possibility of snowballing or ripple
effects, in which the readers’ experience of
debunking the stereotypes of books extends beyond
the book–reader dyad and spreads across a local
community [8] [10]. Others suggest that regular
openings of the Library contribute to community
development [8]. Still others discern a modest view
that the effects of the Human Library might be only
temporary, particularly the effects of a one-time
Library such as ours, and that it is necessary to
perform more systematic analysis of the long-term
effects from a wide array of theoretical standpoints
(e.g. intergroup contact theories, cosmopolitanism,
politics of representation and listening) [10]. In
addition, most studies focus on the effects of the
book–reader dialogue, providing much scope to
investigate other relations, such as those between
books and librarians.
With such characteristics of the literature in mind,
the 30 students and one faculty organiser of
Dokkyo Human Library conjointly carried out the
preliminary analysis of the outcomes of the Library
by using four methods: (1) post hoc questionnaire
and interviews with the books, (2) on-site
questionnaire and interviews with the readers, (3)
focus groups with student organisers of other two
Human Libraries run in Tokyo in 2010 and (4)
continuous self-reflection in seminar classes
subsequent to the Library. During our preparation
for the Library, we studied the ‘contact hypothesis
[11], and to evaluate the outcomes of the Library,
we could have considered its four pillars as
preconditions for the reduction of prejudice:
pursuing a common goal, equal status, personal
intimacy, and sanction from authority [12].
However, we decided not to limit our focus by
using this social psychological approach,
considering the rudimentary nature of Human
Library research to date. Instead, we chose to
identify general themes of what three
players—readers, books, and librarians—could
learn, so that readers of our study could use our
experience as a sound basis for theoretical
reflections and as a practical tool to carry out other
modes of Human Libraries in future.
It is beyond the scope of this paper to address all
emerging outcomes of the Library. Thus, we focus
on three major findings: (1) increased knowledge,
understanding and empathy of the readers
(listeners), (2) increased self-reflexivity of the
books (storytellers) and (3) transcending the
Self–Other imaginations of the librarians (student
Increased knowledge and empathy of the
The readers seemed to grow in their knowledge and
interest in difference and diversity, and many
reported empathic understanding of the books.
Among 72 registered readers, 23 responded to an
on-site questionnaire about demographic
information (age, sex, occupation and location of
residence), motives and opinions of reading
sessions. Of the 23 respondents, 22 (95.6%) agreed
that Dokkyo Human Library contributed to
‘discovering the unknown self.’ Twenty
respondents (86.9%) acknowledged that they
would recommend others to join the Library. These
high figures are consistent with evaluations at other
inaugural Human Libraries [8] [9]. Most
respondents expressed an awakening of new values
and broadening of perspectives through direct
conversations with the books.
Below are some comments solicited from the
questionnaire and semi-structured interviews:
I didn’t know that anyone can play blind
soccer, so I want to try it.
Alopecia is not only a physical problem
but also a mental problem. The more I
knew her thoughts, the more I felt
heartbreaking grief.
Thinking about homosexuality, many
people would think that the normal is
heterosexual and that the abnormal is
homosexual. I used to think both sexual
orientations were OK, but I now realise
that I was still making a clear distinction
between the two, which is not right.
My fear of religion disappeared.
I used to feel that the officers of the
Self-Defence Force were rigid, but after
meeting him, I felt that he is friendly.
However, any generalisation based on these
positive evaluations must be treated with care
because our sample was small and homogeneous.
In demographic terms, most respondents were
university students (n=13: 56.5%) in their twenties
(n=16: 69.5%), and a vast majority of the
respondents came from distant areas (n=20: 86.9%).
In addition, no conclusive generalisations can be
made about the positive effects of attitudinal
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
change, as nine respondents (39.1%) were already
interested in the Library prior to coming to Dokkyo
Human Library and 13 respondents (56.5%) were
not first-timers. Future evaluations of this kind will
have to target a larger number of people who are
more diverse in demography and who are not
sensitised to diversity issues beforehand.
Nevertheless, the entire perception of the Library
among the readers was positive, and no negative
comments were reported by the readers except for a
few humble requests for a longer duration (i.e.
more than 30 minutes) of the reading session.
Increased self-reflexivity of the books
We carried out a survey and conducted interviews
with the books. Of 16 books, 11 returned our
questionnaire with answers in two weeks and three
participated in post hoc interviews within one or
two months after the Library ended. Of the 11
respondents, including the three interviewees, six
(54.5%) were first-timers to a Human Library and
five (45.5%) were second- or third-timers, whose
first participation had taken place within a year. It
should be noted that all the books were relatively
new to the event, and therefore, the following
evaluation may reflect their sense of novelty.
In general, the books’ reactions, too, were positive,
particularly from the viewpoint of promoting their
reflexivity on the storytelling experience and daily
life. For example, nine out of 11 respondents
(81.8%) held the opinion that Dokkyo Human
Library helped them to discover the unknown self’.
In response to a subsequent open-ended question
about what they meant by discovering the unknown
self, many commented on greater self-reflexivity
through conversations with the readers and other
I found that I truly want and like to
communicate with others, more than
anything else.
In responding to the readers’ sincere
questions, I realised that I wanted to tell
all my experiences to them.
This whole world is interesting. [From
this opportunity] I received courage to
go one step further.
If I step further with courage, many
people will accept me. It’s an ordinary
thing, but it was nice that I could find it.
We also asked the books about their pre-event
expectations by an open-ended question in the
survey. We categorised their responses into six
recurrent themes: (1) meeting new people, (2)
reducing social prejudice, (3) gaining others’
acceptance, (4) rethinking self-identity, (5)
enjoying the experience and (6) finding something
new. These categories were consistent with
responses to a five-point Likert scale on the
subjective feelings of participation (i.e.
significance–insignificance, easiness–difficulty,
security–anxiety, understanding–incomprehension
and enjoyment–boredom). Except for the
dimension of easiness (from 2.91 to 2.73), the
mean rates showed positivity: after the Library, the
books tended to find more security (from 3.09 to
3.73), significance (from 4.36 to 4.73),
understanding (from 3.45 to 3.91) and enjoyment
(from 3.91 to 4.64).
With regard to programme management, however,
there remained areas for improvement. Several
books remarked that they should have been given
more concrete and detailed instructions for
(Dokkyo) Human Library and their expected roles
as a book beforehand. As shown in the perception
of decreased easiness (from 2.91 to 2.73), a few
reported potential difficulties in conversation due
to snide remarks by the readers and a lack of
adequate socio-emotional support by student
librarians. The books should have been allocated
more time to prepare sufficiently, possibly through
face-to-face consultation or role plays or even
through an SNS (e.g. Skype). An important
implication of these comments is that more benefits
of the Human Library should be sought and
co-created between the books and the librarians
through strategic and collaborative preparations.
Transcending the Self–Other imaginations of the
As mentioned in Preparation, one significant
aspect of student-run events such as this is the
discourse of the student–worker/shakaijin
dichotomy that is pervasive in the Japanese society
[6]. While the student organisers, the vast
proportion of whom had identified themselves as
‘majority’, were trying to find the
‘minorities/unique as prospective books, they felt
disadvantaged and marginalised by the ‘society’ as
(if they were) the ‘minority’ (or possibly ‘unique’),
or people with a lower status. As economically
weak individuals dependent on their parents, some
students were met with suspicion and frowns by the
workers/shakaijin when they asked for donations to
hold the Library. As junior ‘half-adult’ citizens in a
vertical society, others felt obliged or compelled to
obey senior ‘adults when any chance of
disagreement arose. As a young female, one
student struggled to convince an older male reader
to respect the rules of the Library. All of these
subtleties provided us with a productive focus on
the issues of privilege and power in the broader
societal context.
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
Arguably, the term that most succinctly describes
the main outcomes of Dokkyo Human Library for
student librarians is the transcendence of
Self–Other imaginations. It is has been argued in
the critical approach to intercultural
communication that the privileged/powerful Self is
constructed in opposition to, or at the expense of,
the imaginably denigrated/powerless Other [13].
This unequal Self–Other relation is a hallmark of
many incidents of intergroup bias, intolerance and
conflict. Conversely, we believe that as individuals,
by organising a Human Library, we achieved the
relational transcendence of the ‘us’–’them’
dichotomy in the pursuit of a common goal, which
was to open Dokkyo Human Library to create a
secure space for intercultural dialogues.
Anecdotally, several student organisers reported
greater socio-emotional interconnectedness through
collaborative preparation for the Library. For
example, one student approached an NPO which
addresses issues of physical appearance. She had
originally avoided people with distinct physical
characteristics because she did not know how to
communicate with them. Then, she met an albino
gentleman. Through continual interaction and
preparation with him, she discovered that they
shared many personal similarities and formed a
deep friendship with him. Now she goes to karaoke
and enjoys drinking with him and his colleagues.
Another student contacted an NPO which assists in
fostering the independence of people with
disabilities. She felt uneasy about interacting with
such people until she met an executive officer of
the organisation, who uses a wheelchair and is a
strong advocate of inclusive city planning and
development for all disabled and non-disabled
people. She had previously felt nervous contacting
him by telephone or email, but now she is a
frequent participant in volunteer events run by his
The common theme between the stories of these
two students, as well as that of many others, is that
the Dokkyo Human Library project became a
strong impetus to reflect on our identities and
positions in relation to the others in the society.
Through organising the event, we learned that the
Self–Other identification and distinction could be
made on the basis of various criteria such as age,
sex/gender, culture, occupation, physical
characteristics, economic status, and even
motivation for the Human Library. We also learned
that through prolonged engagement with the books
in pursuit of a common goal (although a more
strategic co-creation of the goal could have been
practiced), we could bridge preordained intergroup
differences by transcending the Self–Other
dichotomy and transforming it into
interconnectedness. Although our evaluation of
outcomes of the Library is still rudimentary, we
believe that our Human Library could serve as a
strong bridge between people of different
backgrounds and as a powerful instrument to
nurture our capacities to act on differences.
Through the Dokkyo Human Library project, we
faced numerous challenges and had precious new
encounters. As university student/staff organisers,
we found that the Library was a very effective
strategy for changing the perceptions of the readers,
librarians, and even books. We also found that the
Library was very useful in revisiting our position
and status in society and in cultivating our social
and generic skills through active engagement with
the society [14]. Considering that most existing
evaluations of the outcomes of Human Libraries
are atheoretical and rudimentary, research
institutions such as universities can and should play
vital roles in further development of the Human
Library. However, our experience reveals that
holding the Library in a university setting is not
without limits and problems.
Based on our findings, some of the emerging tasks
for future practitioners and researchers are as
Thus far, we know very little about the
possibility of the university as a site for the
Human Library. One possibility from our
earlier discussion of the ‘us’–’them’
dichotomy is that the university may not be as
open and welcoming to the general public as
city libraries or other public spaces to hold this
event. Another option is, of course, that the
university could go out of the ivory tower of
academia to make efforts to be open to the
local community. Nevertheless, further
exploration of the spatiality of the Human
Library in relation to its surroundings is
In addition, we know little about the possible
impacts of the frequency/timing of the Human
Library at university on the perceived
socio-emotional outcomes. The favourable
results of our one-off Library could be
attributed simply to the novelty of the event
(i.e. a special event during the university
festival), rather than to the success of rigorous
preparation and evaluation. The issue of timing
should be addressed with a fundamental
question: For what reasons and purposes, and
for whom, should the Human Library be held?
To date, there are few reports on the possible
links between the Human Library and other
types of educational programmes such as
intercultural and diversity training, and foreign
language instructions. The Human Library
2011 Shanghai International Conference on Social Science (SICSS 2011)
techniques, for example, are easily transferable
to international student orientations or
intercultural events in which international and
home students could sit and talk together to
cross the divide between the two student
groups and facilitate greater interactions on
campus. Personal relationships and networks
that are created through the Human Library
could also be used as a resource for other
creative research and educational activities.
It is our sincere hope that future research and
educational practices will not only improve the
quality of the Human Library but also create new
knowledge that will help celebrate diversity and
enhance peace in our globalising world.
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to
more than 150 individuals who kindly cooperated
with and/or participated in Dokkyo Human Library
as books, readers, sponsors, advisers and friends.
Without their curiosity in diversity and dialogue,
tolerance of ambiguity and hope to create a better
future, this event and research would not have been
possible. We are also thankful to other student
organisers and co-researchers of Dokkyo Human
Library, some of whose informal remarks and
works in progress provided inspiration to polish the
main ideas of this paper.
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February 2011 from the Human Library
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and the global knowledge economy, 2009, pp.
217-255, New York: Peter Lang.
[3] Tanaka, G., The intercultural campus:
Transcending culture and power in American
higher education, 2003, New York: Peter
[4] Abergel, R., Rothemund, A., Titley, G., and
Wootsch, P., Don’t judge a book by its cover!
The Living Library organiser’s guide, 2005,
Budapest, Hungary: Council of Europe
[5] Liu, S., Volcic, Z., and Gallois, C,
Introducing intercultural communication:
Global cultures and contexts, 2011, Los
Angels, CA: Sage.
[6] Sugimoto, Y, An introduction to Japanese
society (3rd ed.), 2010, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
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[8] Kinsley, L., Lismore’s Living Library:
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[9] Yokota, M. (Ed.), Living Library at Meiji
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mikata wo kaete mimasenka (the report)
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[11] Allport, G. The nature of prejudice, 1954,
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[14] Kudo, K., Motohashi, Y., Enomoto, E., and
Yajima, Y., Tayosei to tomoni ikiru:
‘Shakaijin kisoryoku’ kara mita ‘Human
Library’ un-ei no koka (Living with diversity:
Effects of organising the Human Library in
light of shakaijin/workers basic skills’),
... Two people may not share experiences in the absence of social networks. By providing the platform like a human library it becomes possible to establish social networks, bridge the people (with different social backgrounds), reduce social exclusion, improve interpersonal cooperation, increase empathy and gain a variety of unique perspectives (Kudo et al., 2011). Collectiveness of these things induces social capital (Putnam, 2000) that is directly related to economic benefits. ...
... Two people may not share experiences in the absence of social networks. By providing the platform like a human library it becomes possible to establish social networks, bridge the people (with different social backgrounds), reduce social exclusion, improve interpersonal cooperation, increase empathy and gain a variety of unique perspectives (Kudo et al., 2011). (Kudo et al., 2011). ...
... By providing the platform like a human library it becomes possible to establish social networks, bridge the people (with different social backgrounds), reduce social exclusion, improve interpersonal cooperation, increase empathy and gain a variety of unique perspectives (Kudo et al., 2011). (Kudo et al., 2011). Collectiveness of these things induces social capital (Putnam, 2000) (Putnam, 2000) that is directly related to economic benefits. ...
Full-text available
Purpose In the absence of a working model for describing, managing and archiving the human library resources, this study aims to attempt a practical approach that will provide all the necessary information to the library users, library professionals and researchers. Design/methodology/approach Initially, different metadata standards, archival projects and attributes of the human books were reviewed to identify appropriate metadata standards that accurately describe the resources of the human library. A free and open-source software; DSpace was considered for implementing newly defined metadata schema in this study. Thereafter, a set of new subject entries was incorporated to standardize the contents of the human library. Findings This study finds that the widely used metadata schema – Dublin Core (DC) is not appropriate to describe the contents of the human book. It shows that selected metadata elements from the types – person and event of can be used for describing, organizing and archiving the resources of the human library. It further highlights that existing subject entries are not sufficient to standardize the contents of these types of resources. Research limitations/implications Two metadata fields in DSpace are strongly recommended by the DSpace community to consider in the input-forms.xml file, that is why the study could not completely omit DC metadata elements in describing human books. Originality/value The study provides a roadmap to the library professionals on the inclusion of new metadata schemas in describing the uniquely featured resources of the library.
... According to Johannsen, the human library is "an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices, and encourage understanding" [1]. By participating in the human library, readers (visitors) can engage in a dialogue with "living books," or storytellers, whom they may seldom meet in daily life [3]. Following this rationale, the human library approach has been promoted in other countries and adopted in various fields [3,4]. ...
... By participating in the human library, readers (visitors) can engage in a dialogue with "living books," or storytellers, whom they may seldom meet in daily life [3]. Following this rationale, the human library approach has been promoted in other countries and adopted in various fields [3,4]. ...
... Although the human library approach is becoming popular globally, it has received little exploration in scholarly literature [3,19,26,30]. Although this approach may potentially improve social inclusion, its implementation to reduce the stigma of mental illness is still in the beginning stages. ...
Full-text available
The key to the successful social inclusion of people recovering from mental illness is mutual understanding with other community members. To promote such social inclusion, the human library approach has been adopted by a group of practitioners based in Hong Kong. Through a review of this community mental health initiative, this study explores the relevance and usefulness of this approach in a mental health setting. A collaborative inquiry-based research method was adopted to explore the human library approach in practice. A practitioner inquiry group was conducted with four social workers and three peer support workers to examine their experience of running the human library. Thematic analysis and member checks were used to identify important themes. The practitioners’ reports of their experiences showed that the human library is well suited to facilitating social inclusion and promoting mental health recovery. Community members and people in recovery can benefit from participating in a human library, and the two sides can become connected through mutual understanding. However, possible risks for people in recovery were also identified. This study argues that the human library deserves consideration as an approach to facilitating social inclusion and promoting recovery. Its effectiveness and benefits are evident, especially compared with large-scale one-way intervention approaches. A clinical practice manual should be developed to inform future practitioners of the value of the human library approach in mental health settings.
... Results showed positive participant experiences overall, though also suggested the benefits of human library participation are likely to be very individualized. A 2011 study of a human library program at a Japanese university found increased knowledge, understanding, and self-reflexivity among participants, while also highlighting the difficulties faced with recruiting human books: approaching potential books was socially challenging, and coordinating with them required thousands of emails in a university setting [40]. Though much research into human libraries is practice-based, theoretical examinations of the human library have also been conducted. ...
... As indicated in both existing literature [19,40] and in our interviews, selection and recruitment of human books represent one of the most challenging aspects of staging a human library event. Though official guidelines for human libraries suggest identifying human books who represent targets of discrimination [2], in practice, we found that some libraries actively avoid individuals who may be at odds with the community, representing an inconsistency with the officially stated goal of the human library or even contradictory to the provided purposes of their events. ...
... For example, L4 mentioned the purpose was "to see whatever other people do," but she rejected certain book topics during book topic selection. Identifying individuals as discriminated against may be discriminatory in itself, and some human library event organizers have addressed the problematic nature of labeling community members as "others" [18,40]. In staging human library events, host institutions must decide which social barriers they are attempting to confront, or they may perhaps seek to reinforce dominant characteristics and interests of the community instead. ...
Conference Paper
The human library is an event intended to engage members of the community in sharing and learning from each other's experiences, and is growing in popularity internationally. Human libraries fall within the larger scope of community knowledge sharing but have received little study and remain largely unsupported by technology. In this study, we examine how community libraries organize and host these events. We present how libraries have attempted to utilize technologies and leverage community support to enable human library events. Our findings reveal inconsistencies in the purpose of human library events, as well as technology applications that are not sufficient to support fully collaborative community knowledge building. We highlight opportunities for increased community participation and technological innovation and also suggest a broader consideration of computer-supported collaborative work in the context of human libraries and experience sharing.
... The bulk of literature related to LL and Reader attitudinal change has used qualitative methodology. Kudo, Motohashi, Enomoto, Kataoka, and Yajima (2011), utilizing on-site questionnaires of HLs as their data source, denoted two findings related to attitudinal change. First, Readers increased their knowledge and empathy regarding groups of people represented by Books. ...
... Other studies have focused on the impact of LLs on those individuals enlisted as Books. Kudo et al. (2011), for example found that Books increased their ability to be self-reflexive about their narratives. Participants from the study used the term "discovering the unknown self" as a process that emanated from dialogue with Readers. ...
Full-text available
Since the Vietnam War, storytelling has emerged as a viable intervention for war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD, depression, and other adjustment issues. To procure its benefits, however, storytelling must happen in a safe environment with trusted listeners. This article considers a yet-unexplored venue for veterans to share their stories—the Living Library. Individual interviews of six participants in a 2019 Living Library event hosted by a mid-sized Midwestern university commemorating Memorial Day cultivated four themes: (1) negative experiences of telling their stories before the event; (2) utilitarian motives for sharing at the Living Library event; (3) perceived advantages/benefits of participation in the event; and (4) clear “next steps” they shared regarding their post-Living Library narratives. The authors found that veterans used the Living Library to work through previous discomfort in sharing their narratives in ways that forged bonds between civilian and veterans, allowed them to become more comfortable with their military identities, and mitigated negative psychological symptoms related to being deployed.
... It is important, however, that the readers are appropriately briefed about the activity so as to enable them to find a common ground during the interaction." Celebrating diversity is a key aspect of every Human Library it was indicated that "the Human Library [acts] as a bridge between people of different backgrounds" (Yap &Labangon, 2015) Kudo et al. (2011) assert that it creates a powerful instrument that cultivates our capability to act on differences. ...
Full-text available
The paper is intended to present the role of libraries in promoting dialogue to reduce discrimination; share how libraries document human library sessions as a form of oral history and provide information on the effect of human library sessions to readers. The paper documents the human library program as an alternative source of information which promotes cultural diversity to improve many facets of literacies, which include media and information literacy. Human library aims to lessen our prejudices and makes us more tolerant individuals. In order to achieve cultural equality and social inclusivity, De La Salle University (DLSU) Libraries continues to offer human library sessions to form critical thinkers, lifelong learners and catalysts for social transformation. Most readers thought that the most important learning experience they gained while reading the books was to accept and understand each one of us as unique individuals. The human library program encourages people to be more tolerant and embolden acceptance.
... Most work has been focused on the presentation of case studies of specific events. Findings show positive experiences for both readers and human books, though note the identification and recruitment of human books as a particularly challenging aspect of these events (Kudo et al., 2011;Clover, 2014). Previous work has touched on the experiences of human books. ...
Full-text available
Human libraries are events intended to provide readers with access to the knowledge and lived experiences of their fellow community members. These events are growing in popularity worldwide, and while often hosted by traditional libraries, can take place in a variety of community organization settings. Human library events depend on the services of the “human books” who volunteer to participate, though recruitment of these volunteers remains one of the most challenging aspects of hosting the events. Previous work has shown that human books enjoy participation in these events, though the specific benefits of human libraries for the human books have not been explored. In this study, we analyze the post-event survey responses of human books from four different human library events hosted by various institutions. Participants reported a variety of benefits ranging from altruistic to more self-focused. Reviewing their responses, we suggest eight major categories of benefits for human books. Findings hold implications for effectively recruiting and motivating potential human books, as well as how host institutions may adapt human libraries to the needs of their communities.
... In a human library session a library of living books makes themselves available for borrowing by members of the public for a thirty-minute 'reading'. Human libraries can take a number of forms and be organized for a range of purposes (Kudo, Motohashi, Enomoto, Kataoka, and Yajima 2011). Generalist human libraries are comprised of living books representing a range of backgrounds who might give themselves 'book titles' according to intersections of, for example, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or ability. ...
Human rights and peace issues and concerns have come about at a critical time. The world has recently witnessed a plethora of turning points that speak of the hopes and vulnerabilities which are inherent in being human and demonstrate that change in the service of human rights and peace is possible. At the same time, however, other events indicate that wherever there is life, there is vulnerability in a world characterized by instability and endemic human suffering. On top of all this, the collapse of the global financial system and the serious, rapid destruction of the environment have brought the world to a precarious state of vulnerability. Activating human rights and peace is, therefore, a project that is always in progress, and is never finally achieved. This enlightening collection of well thought through cases is aimed at academics and students of human rights, political science, law and justice, peace and conflict studies and sociology.
In recent times, academic libraries are expected to reposition themselves to maintain their value by introducing innovative services to meet the constant changes in user information needs. This chapter explores the concept of human library and how it may be exploited in the transfer of tacit knowledge in academic institutions and their libraries. Some benefits identified are the interactive nature of human libraries which brings back the natural mode of human communication, the opportunity to promote individual growth, and the collection of living books which serve as an educational resource. The study concludes that although adopting the human library concept has some anticipated challenges, it can help facilitate the transfer of tacit knowledge in academic institutions. Hence, there is a need for academic libraries to adopt this concept as part of their innovative and creative initiatives.
Similar to discussions in social work education classrooms facilitated by Intergroup Dialogue (IGD), the Human Library (HL) is an opportunity for students to engage in personal one-on-one dialogue about prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. To date, no study has been conducted of the use of the HL in social work education. A qualitative case study approach exploring the perceptions of 11 participants in an HL event hosted by one midwestern university explored two research questions: How do those in the role of enlisted participants (Books) describe the HL experience? and What potential does the HL have to create IGD in the social work classroom? Data analysis revealed the following unique themes: (a) arriving with the baggage of the narrative, (b) intention to educate and raise awareness, (c) surprise at the undeserved respect they received from readers, (d) perception of a shift from monologue to dialogue, and (e) recognition of expanding the narrative that fueled positive self-perceptions. Freire’s critical theory was applied to the findings, identifying the benefits of its use in social work education compared to more traditional IGD offerings.
This article describes a Human Library project that led to reframing academic library work with international students. Rather than offering supports to overcome barriers or solve problems, the Human Library project emphasized shared knowledge building. Instead of seeing library work with international students through a deficit framework that emphasizes negative perspectives such as perceived gaps in linguistic or academic knowledge, this project offered an asset framework that highlighted the positive benefits that international students bring to libraries. This reframing identified emerging themes of inclusion, diversity, interculturalism, multiculturalism, and internationalization at home.
This book critically examines the main features of intercultural communication. It addresses how ideology permeates intercultural processes and develops an alternative ‘grammar’ of culture. It explores intercultural communication within the context of global politics, seeks to address the specific problems that derive from Western ideology, and sets out an agenda for research. ‘Taking on issues normally left in the margins, Adrian Holliday has revised the way we think of intercultural communication by insisting that we consider its ideological component. In this brilliant and engaging book about culture and the interstices that comprise the grounds for our interactions, he shows us the necessity for a cosmopolitan process that expands the basis of our intercultural work. This is a compelling book that should be read by scholars and the general public alike. It is accessible, factual, and clear.’ – Molefi Kete Asante, Temple University.
Diversity training is a type of prejudice reduction and social inclusion intervention in need of “action research”—an integration of research and theory with practice (Lewin, 1946). Hundreds of workplaces and schools use some form of diversity training, but most interventions are not grounded in theory and there is little evidence of program impact. A recent study of a school diversity training program illustrates how action research can address theoretical issues using experimental methods and unobtrusive outcome measures. For future research, the literature on intergroup contact (Pettigrew, 1998) can provide theoretical guidance while testing and refining its principles in the application and investigation of diversity training. Action research will benefit diversity training and the broader theoretical and applied project of prejudice reduction and the promotion of social inclusion.
The papers in this proceedings are the result of presentations given at the international Activating Human Rights and Peace: Universal Responsibility conference held at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre, NSW, Australia, from 1 - 4 July 2008. The Activating Human Rights and Peace: Universal Responsibility Conference 2008 Conference Proceedings is a publication of the Centre for Peace and Social Justice at Southern Cross University. Refereed papers have been blind, peer refereed by members of a panel of national and international experts in the fields of human rights and peace. Whether a paper is refereed or non-refereed is indicated at the top right-hand corner above the title of each paper. These proceedings are available, free of charge, from the Centre for Peace and Social Justice website at <>. The referencing in this proceedings is a mixed referencing system. While some standardisation has been attempted, the cross-disciplinary nature of the Activating Human Rights and Peace - Universal Responsibility conference meant that one referencing system could not suit all writing and topics. For this reason we have chosen a pragmatic path and allowed a range of styles, the key criteria being clarity, consistency and accuracy.
Lismore's Living Library: Connecting communities through conversation
  • L Kinsley
Kinsley, L., Lismore's Living Library: Connecting communities through conversation, Aplis, 22 (1), 2009, pp. 20-25.
Tayosei to tomoni ikiru: 'Shakaijin kisoryoku' kara mita 'Human Library' un-ei no koka (Living with diversity: Effects of organising the Human Library in light of 'shakaijin
  • K Kudo
  • Y Motohashi
  • E Enomoto
Kudo, K., Motohashi, Y., Enomoto, E., and Yajima, Y., Tayosei to tomoni ikiru: 'Shakaijin kisoryoku' kara mita 'Human Library' un-ei no koka (Living with diversity: Effects of organising the Human Library in light of 'shakaijin/workers basic skills'), forthcoming.
Sojourning students and creative cosmopolitans Creativity and the global knowledge economy
  • S Marginson
Marginson, S., Sojourning students and creative cosmopolitans. In M. A. Peters, S. Marginson, and P. Murphy (Eds.), Creativity and the global knowledge economy, 2009, pp. 217-255, New York: Peter Lang.