The Library Where the ‘Books’ Are Human Beings
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: May 28th, 2023
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is the kind of advice most people forget when they meet Joel Hartgrove. Maori tattoos cover his neck, ears and his shaved skull. Hartgrove is an open book. You can borrow him for 20 minutes, talk to him about his time in the Australian army, his Indigenous roots, his tattoos, anything you’d like. You’ll find you’re speaking with a deep thinker who answers nosy questions with humor and heart — a common trait among the “books” available for loan in Ronni Abergel’s library. “They are stigmatized,” Abergel says of his collection, “maybe because of their weight, their looks, their profession, their religious, sexual or political orientation, or because they survived abuse and traumas. We can’t just judge someone on face value.” Abergel, 48, is the director of the biggest and most beautiful library in the world: the Human Library, where you borrow people instead of books and speak with them about their lives. His library rules are simple: Treat the books respectfully; bring them back on time and in the same shape you borrowed them; don’t take them home. “They will answer any question you have the courage to ask,” Abergel promises. The Human Library is now active in 80 countries, with branches in Texas and Tokyo, Bangladesh and Berlin. Every reader who visits, virtually or in-person, chooses two or three topics that interest them: rugby, depression, refugees, sex work, cancer, grief. “There is a great book hidden in all of us, and most of us would be bestsellers,” Abergel believes.
Note: Don't miss a deeply moving series called HUMAN by filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who spent three years collecting real-life stories from thousands of people in 60 countries. Their stories, although unique to them, speak to the human condition and the parts of life that unite us all: love, happiness, poverty, war, and the future of our planet.