By Gwen Douthat, age 12
Don’t judge a book by its cover. That is a saying that has been around for a while. Unfortunately, people do not always listen. The world is filled with stereotypes about almost everything, and this is why Ronni Abergel and his brother Dany founded the Human Library, a nonprofit organization which aims to help different people with different perspectives understand each other better. Now Human Library events take place in over 80 countries.
Originally founded in Copenhagen in 2000, the Human Library is much like a regular library where people go to check out books, but with one big difference: In this library, the books are all human volunteers who speak openly about their life experiences, and the readers are people who are there to challenge stereotypes they may have. The “books” vary; they may be very religious, identify as trans, have body modifications or mental or physical disabilities, and are often stigmatized within our societies.
The Human Library gives you a chance to interact with people whom you may never have met or had the chance to speak to in your life, an act which gives us the ability to develop our empathy for others. Robyn Fivush, a doctor of psychology, explains in Psychology Today that when we listen to other people’s stories, we understand how they feel and who they are in a completely new way. Listening to other people’s stories can create a bridge of understanding between two people. “Learning how to tell your story is a critical social tool for individuals; listening to others’ stories builds community,” explains Dr. Fivush.
A person who attends a Human Library event can leave having their perspective of different people changed. Projects like the Human Library are important because building empathy allows us to feel compassion, which can lead to a desire to help and change how our society functions. Activism, after all, is rooted in an underlying compassion for all people.