These guidelines, recommendations and ground rules are to support the tasks of the organisers to prepare the persons in the role of Human Books during the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the Living Library Event.
Becoming a Human Book
Before planning and preparing the Human Books, organisers should make some considerations.
- Everybody has a potential story deconstructing stereotypes and prejudices to become a Human Book, however:
- Not everybody is ready to be a Human book.
- Nobody is born as a Human Book
- Elements to consider:
- Not resolved traumatic experiences. The library is not a therapy session, and should not reenact a traumatic experience.
- The story of the human book has a learning purpose in the sense that it should help to de-construct a prejudice or stereotype, offering multiple stories not a single story.
- The story is not about preaching a final truth, but about sharing diversity.
- The story is not for victimising and not looking for pitting.
- Human books should be ready to deal with frustration. How to handle if nobody wants to read a title. There are best-sellers and hidden gems.
- Human Books should be ready to receive questions without offense.
Tips for the preparation Human Book story
- What stereotypes/prejudices can your story deconstruct? (a person like you vs. local context)? What other/complimentary/multiple story can you bring to people from here? How do people of the local community where you are living now see and perceive you? What offends or discriminates you? What difficulties do you experience in your life here and how do you solve these issues? What would you like the local people to know about you? Sometimes just talking about your everyday life as an asylum-seeker, refugee and migrant may already be breaking the stereotypical perceptions of people.
- Focus on something particular, not all your life. As you will have the limit of time, choose a part of your life story that connects to the stereotypes you want to de-construct.
- Don’t take your traumatic experience, which you still didn’t work well on (it can bring you to your “panic zone”); in case you discover that your story is too painful to you, you can take another role during the Living Library for instance facilitator or librarian – it is totally ok, you can act as human book in the next event when you feel ready.
- The story/you should not make your image as victim/victimize yourself; in case of hard experiences share how it affected your life/you nowadays and how you dealt with that. It is very stereotype-breaking to show that you are the master of your life, even if you are in the situation, that you need support.
- It is much recommended to prepare a 7-10 minutes long talk, because you will need time for dialogue with readers and their questions. During the preparation try to tell your planned story to someone or, better, your colleague/s from Living Library; – they might give you some important feedback, indicate the questions you may expect from readers and help to choose the good focus of your Human Book.
- Be ready for questions and people with a basic level of knowledge about issues you are talking about; there might be even offensive questions without bad intention. The questions and comments might be as well hard for you and even painful (act according to the situation in this case).
- It may happen that your title is not a very popular book or less demanded book that day – do not feel sad about that, there is no problem;
- Try to find a good title for your Human Book (interesting and intriguing, at the same time giving some idea about your story at the same time).
Safety Tips for Human Books
- If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe get assistance. You may agree with the facilitator’s team the sign to help (for instance raise your hand or give a signal “I need water/ I need to go to toilet”)
- Don’t hesitate to contact the facilitators or organizers for any other issues that may arise during the event.
- Be aware of the security and safety rules and regulations of the venue where the living library is taking place (emergency exits, assembly points…).
- Get to know who are the emergency contacts/ points in the team.
- Keep cool if anything unexpected happens.
- Do not keep your belongings unattended! Usually the organizers will have some safe places where to leave your valuable things, bag, jacket, bike etc.
- No smoking is allowed during the event at the venue.
- Do not forget to hidratate, drink water.
- Keep the timing in order to have at least 5 minutes of rest between readings.
- If you feel dizzy or sick, take a break and contact the facilitator/librarian for assistance.
- Some readers may like you and want to keep in contact after the event – be careful with giving your personal data, phone etc. In case anyone addresses the organizers asking for your personal contacts, the organisers will by no means share that information without your permission.
Behavior and communication
- Use respectful language and be polite with readers. In case the behavior of the reader is provocative, aggressive or annoying, call for support.
- Be as patient as possible. Readers you have, maybe have never spoken in their life with person like you and they may ask questions and do comments that seem too basic, inappropriate or even stupid, but this is the way they can learn about your life and change their perceptions on the way to break their stereotypes.
- Use your communication skills, verbal and non- verbal e.g. eye contact, articulate etc.
- Don’t ignore readers. If there are many questions, you may listen to all of them and answer them altogether. You can take notes of their questions if you feel that you may forget all of them.
- Be an active listener to your readers and they should be as well your active listeners.
- Don’t take selfies during the “reading” session, as it disturbs the process and breaks the dynamics. You may do that, if everyone agrees at the end.
- Stay until the end of the event.
- Don’t leave the conversation unfinished, wrap up the conversation at the end; and thank all the readers for coming – to close the reading round.
- Keep timing in mind for each session and breaks and make sure you have time for dialoguing and exchange of questions and reactions from readers; avoid long monologues.
- If you work with interpretation, the conversation will take longer, so, keep focused and patient.
- Don’t disappear; let someone (facilitators or librarians) know where you are!
- Use your breaks wisely (go to the bathroom! etc.).
- Get to know the other people of the team (librarians, facilitators, interpreters, etc.).
- When translation is needed, facilitate the work of the interpreters. Don’t speak too fast and keep sentences quite simple and short.
- Respect the team working with you – you are one team and have common objectives doing this event.
- Be collaborative with the organizers and facilitators.
Tips for effective books
- Be yourself (because everyone else is already taken!)
- Don’t generalise, it is your perspective – make sure that the readers understandthis. Remember, that you are doing that to challenge the stereotypes of theothers and not reinforce or create the new stereotypes.
- Be aware of the readers’ rules and any other event guidelines – all the actors of the Living Library should have their rules too.
- Keep the session a two-way dialogue. Dialogue is not the same as debate, where the parties try to convince and change the points of view of each other. The aim of dialogue is respectful conversation trying to understand each other. Nor the Book or readers should try to convince each other that they are right/wrong or judge.
- Be open to readers’ comments and questions – take into account, that they might know nothing about a person like you.
- Be open to put questions and ask for clarifications from your readers. You may as well ask readers things like: Why they have chosen your Human Book or what they know about your country/religion/culture/situation etc. and what would they like to know…
- You are free to choose whether to answer, or not; – some questions may be too personal or uncomfortable for you, so you can say that to the reader directly, that you cannot answer that.
- Keep your topic relevant – remember your title and stereotypes, you are intending to deconstruct.
- You may start conversations by inquiring why the readers have chosen you.
- Do not be afraid of the pauses. It may happen that readers do not ask anything, they are too pensive, but maybe they are just digesting… You may ask them something or speak more or keep the silence for a while and ask them what they think of your story.