Local Living Libraries

Introduction

Within the Strategic Partnership Project Expressions in Dialogue: Innovate youth work practices on refugee inclusion through Living Libraries, eight Living Library events took place along 2019.

Local Living Libraries took place in Tallinn, in Athens, two in Barcelona, two in The Hague, another one in Magenta and a last one in Rhodes.

In each local context, coordination teams of young migrants, refugees and local youth workers, developed competences in order to implement local actions based on Living Library methodologies in the public sphere thus generating inclusive youth work.

The development of these local and community actions was the key moment in this cooperation.

The multiplier events were essential as they served to develop and test the intellectual output supporting the preparation, implementation and the evaluation of Living Library events, supporting the inclusion in diverse European contexts.

Here you can find a summary of these local events.

Tallinn

Living Library

Barcelona

Living Library

The Hague

Living Library

Magenta

Living Library

Rhodes

Living Library

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What a Living Library is

Living Library is a methodology, an activity and a social event which aims to raise awareness and sensibilise people on the themes that are much spoken in the society, often lacking or having partial information, due to not having personal experience in relation to them.

In this library there are no usual paper books, but “human books”. These are persons that have interesting live stories and want to contribute to de-construct the “single story” about their group of people. In our project the Living Libraries specifically aimed to provide readers with “multiple stories” about the realities of young migrants in refugees in the community.

Living Library events encourage the meeting of diversity and de-construction of stereotypes and prejudices through open voluntary conversation and intercultural dialogue within the communities. It brings people together, in order to explore and challenge prejudices. Just like a real library, where books provide an insight to unknown worlds, the Living Library offers its readers the chance to step into the real live stories of other people in an open and frank dialogue. It de-constructs stereotypes and prejudices, dismantles gossips and visualises the wrong and untruthful information which reaches us through conscious and unconscious ways.

What a Living Library is not

Living Library is not a “happening”:
They may be very interesting and even amusing experiences, Living Libraries however require a thorough preparation and commitment from all involved actors. As it deals with human beings and their stories it requires a great degree of empathy and sensitiveness.

Living Library is not a performance:
In the Living Library there are real human books and real live stories that are presented in a frank and open dialogue. It is not a performance where the stories may be invented or elaborated.

Living Library is not a presentation:
In the Living Library there is not an invited expert speaking to a broad audience. The “human book” voluntarily talks about their personal life story (those aspects that they would like to unravel) and it is open to questions and to engage in a frank dialogue.

Living Library is not a group therapy:
Even that emotions are much present in the reading of the stories of the Human Books, the Living Library is not the space for dealing with trauma. Expert psychologists may support those persons in need for support, and once trauma is overcome to join the teams on Living Library.

Living Library is not storytelling:
The Living Library is not just about telling a story but about generating an open conversation leading to dialogue. It cannot be done with a big auditorium but with one or few “readers” at the time.

Why for Living Libraries

This project works through bringing personal experiences of people’s lives. It means that instead of reading a written story, you can learn the own story of a real person through dialogue with them, actively listening and posing those questions you need further information.

And this way, listening and talking to the “human book” makes an impact on you, which is very distinct, than reading a text.
Listening to a personal story creates emotional connections. Through empathy, the reality of another person may become better understood. The first hand information and meeting a real person who lived such an experience, through dialogue, creates a unique opportunity to ask questions and clarify doubts, which we may not have often in another occasion.

The Living Library events on this project are dedicated to themes of migration and refugees. These are very relevant topics for today’s context as there is a need to address them and to create encounters for dialogue between local inhabitants and newcomers for whom Europe has become their new home. Living Library is one of the ways this can be done.

Organising Living Libraries

Living Library methodology has proven especially valuable on the inclusion of young migrants and refugees in the local contexts of the hosting communities. In this same website (link below) there are several thematic chapters that develop on the understanding of the methodology, the reasons why it supports inclusion and its diverse adaptations to multiple contexts.

The Thematic Chapter on organising Living Libraries provides an overview on the different formats that have been tested on the scope of the project and gives orientations and guidelines for the organisers of the Living Library events.

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