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I just read about the coolest idea on Shelf Awareness, a daily bookstore enewsletter.   Here it is:

“Cool Canadian idea of the day: The new City Centre Library in Surrey, B.C., will feature a “human library” in addition to its print inventory. reported that the concept “will allow users to ‘check out’ people and pick their brains about their experiences with blindness, immigration, religion or a disability, among other things. The goal is to break down stereotypes and start discussions, said deputy chief librarian Melanie Houlden.”


Isn’t that a brilliant idea?   I’d add one component.   To “borrow” someone frm the human library, you have to “pay” a “user’s fee”:  before you ask a question and pick their brains, you have to offer up something that you yourself know and that the person might find interesting.  Learning has to be a two-way street, in other words.  If you begin by offering something you know, you will hear better.  You’ll feel confident, like an engaged learner, and you’ll learn more.  Plus, it means that the volunteer “human resource” learns something new that they can add to their treasure trove the next time someone checks them out.


I wish every library and every school adopted this program.   Think of the human resources we could take advantage of!   Think about what a great project it would be for kids to be able to nominate a human resource, to pitch the nominee to their fellow students.  A beloved grandfather who fought in the Vietnam War.   A blind grandmother with stories to tell.   A friend down the block from Afghanistan. An entrepreneur who once did jail time and learned, in prison, how to read.  Every child knows someone amazing.  This could be a no-cost learning opportunity that everyone would learn from.   Let’s do it!

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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