University of Arkansas Human Library

Welcome to the University of Arkansas' Human Library page.

Tips for Books

Image credit: University of Essex Human Library via Flickr

Interested in being a human book? Here are some tips, adapted from

  • Be yourself; be honest and open to talk and listen carefully.
  • Every reader borrowing you will be different, and the reason for choosing your book can vary greatly. A good question to start the discussion is 'Why did you choose my book?' This will give you a first impression of the reader's interest.
  • Readers of the Human Library are, in general, ready to talk, to listen and to learn.
  • Their questions are not always very clear, so it's important to help readers formulate their interest in your book. Try to get some basic information about the reader:
    • Have they met someone like you before?
    • Did they have good or bad experiences with a person like you? – as this will help you to decide on the kind of information they might find interesting.
  • Accept that your reader borrowed your book title and is interested in this dimension of your personality; additional information is mainly meant for illustration. This might give you the feeling that you are somewhat limited, but this is normal in the context of the Human Library.
  • Prepare yourself for your role of being a Book. This is not a game: you have to be convinced about the Book you are representing.
  • It can help to prepare some factual arguments and information, such as statistics or research data, in order to evaluate the relevance of the information some readers might confront you with.
  • Check your watch: you have a limited amount of time together. If the reader wants to spend more time with you, and if you also want to, you should go back to the librarians to renew the loan.
  • Remember that you meet your reader for approximately one half hour and you might never meet again in your lives.
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself again and again, as different readers might pose the same question. Try to treat your reader as if they are the first person you are giving this information to. Try not to show that you are answering the same question for the 4th time.
  • Do not act another role or invent characteristics for yourself; the reader will realize, and you will lose credibility.
  • Be ready to share your reflected personal experience. If questions become too intimate, feel free to say that you do not want to answer.
  • It may turn out that a reader is ignorant or for some reason becomes verbally aggressive and/or attempts to hold you responsible for a variety of social problems. Try to remain calm and show understanding, while expressing your disagreement where necessary. Try to move the discussion on to an area in which you feel safe.  End the check-out if you need to.  Human Librarians are nearby to help.
  • Readers may borrow you for different reasons; they may be curious, or looking for personal advice. Remember readers have to make their life decisions themselves; you can share your own experiences of solving problems or tackling difficult situations, but be careful in giving advice.
  • The content of the discussion with your readers is, in principle, confidential.
  • If you quote from other readers, do not mention their names.
  • It may happen that you are borrowed by two or more people. This can be interesting, as the discussion is more varied. However, be aware not to let yourself be used for sorting out problems between different members of a group.
  • Ask for a break if you feel you need a rest, particularly after a difficult discussion with a reader. It is important for you and the next reader that you are a relaxed discussion partner.
  • Use your breaks to exchange your experiences as a Book with other Books in the Human Library.
  • If you feel uneasy or humiliated by a reader, recall the rules of the Human Library: you have the right to end the discussion if you feel insulted or accused.
  • If your Title is a Bestseller, arrange with the Librarians for short breaks between the readers and inform them of how many readers you are prepared to meet.
  • If your Title is not so popular, try to make the best use of the time in the Library by speaking to the other Books.

Enjoy being a Book! If approached with the right motivation it can be a very interesting and enriching experience for you and your readers!

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