By Kristel Matanguihan
Whenever we hear the word library, we immediately imagine a room filled with piles of books strategically arranged by the person in charge. People go there to read, borrow a book, study, or probably just take a break. This place has always been associated with learning and solitude, but there is more to it than just that.
Last April 22, the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) spearheaded by the University Library launched its very first Human Book Fair as part of the library services that they offer.
The Human Library project originated from Copenhagen, Denmark back in 2000. The project operates by lending a person, someone who have been subjected to different forms of stigmas and stereotypes, to another person who is willing to listen and ask questions about their experiences and how they overcome it to create an environment of understanding.
As of now, there are over 80 countries that have adopted The Human Library Project. UPLB is the second university in the Philippines licensed to handle such event, De La Salle University being the first in 2014.
According to Ma’am Mary Ann N. Ingua, College Librarian IV at UPLB Main Library, “a human library is basically a normal library wherein reading takes place through meaningful conversations”.
As of now, there are 13 human books available in our human library. To be able to avail the service, the reader has to visit the main library lobby where a loan desk is waiting for them. In the loan desk, the reader will be asked to fill a form similar to a typical library form.
The reader will have to choose from the 13 available books and schedule their “reading session” with their human book. The reader will be asked to write down the questions that they will be asking their human book. These questions will be sent to the human book to assess whether the human book is willing to answer their questions. Once the human book has confirmed its availability, they will be assigned a place to meet and create a conversation for an hour. One human book can accommodate one to five readers. It is important to note that the human book can end the session earlier than expected for personal reasons. Taking photos, videos, and recording of the session and/or the human book is strictly prohibited. The program is protected by the Data Privacy Act which ensures the confidentiality of the human books and readers.
Although the major market of the human library is the UPLB community, it is also open to non-UPLB attendees as long as they provide a valid identification card.
You can also apply as a human book volunteer by visiting their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/uplbhumanlib/.
The human library comes with the tagline “unjudge someone” which aims to break down stereotypes, stigmas, and prejudices that are common to UPLB constituents and non-constituents.
Nowadays, everyone has been fully immersed with the power of social media where everything is literally one click away. We turn to social media to satisfy our need to belong and be appreciated. And although it is not a bad thing, the kind of attention that we get from the online world is superficial.
This is something that Ma’am Ingua understands. She wanted to reignite human connection that has decreased exponentially because of the digital age.
“We have been wired to be always on our phone almost every minute of every day. We post everything that happens to us in facebook and twitter. And although we get a lot of likes and comments in our posts, it still lack the human touch that we are all craving for,” added Ma’am Ingua.
As part of the UP community, we are subjected to unrealistic standards of how we should be. Students, faculty members and staffs, representatives, and other officials are not exempted from these prejudices. These standards create pressure that can sometimes be too much for us to handle. With this initiative, we get to be around people who were able to experience and overcome the things that are burdening us. It is a support group that leaves us with the message that we are not alone.
The Human Library Project redefines the way we see a library. It is not just a place to gather resources for your thesis or pass time until your next subject. This time it can also be a place of comfort, of understanding, and if applicable, a home.
As Doug Wilhelm puts in into words: “A library is a house of hope. It’s a place where we all, whatever our situation, can feed our ideas and develop our dreams.”