Don’t Judge a “Book” by its Cover by Lorrie Culver

I have been wracking my brain … what should I write about for my first blog post? A recent blogger wrote about book covers and how students don’t check out books with dated covers. I loved the blog but was somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t thought of it first. As an upper school librarian, I could write about readers’ advisory or research, the two areas of librarianship that presumably take most of my time. I say “presumably” because I just spent the last half an hour assisting students with their printing needs (they needed both double-sided and extra dark copies). However, none of the above activities are “sexy enough” for our administration … so we are constantly tasked with coming up with unique and exciting programming options.


Donna Hicks, the author of the lovely book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, visited our school in the fall. Her book was the all-school read two summers ago and all (students, faculty and staff) have been tasked with treating one another with dignity (having a Director of Diversity would help, but that’s another conversation). One way that we librarians are promoting dignity is to spotlight diverse literature and authors. Poet/author and diversity advocate Kwame Alexander will be the visiting author next month for our annual Newbery assembly. Also following the dignity theme, we librarians are collaborating with world language and social studies teachers in the planning of our first ever “Human Library.”


The concept of the “Human Library” began in Denmark (and I will return to this small Scandinavian country and its incredibly high Happiness quotient in another blog post). The “Human Library” idea is rooted in dignity and how to best combat prejudice, intolerance and violence toward those who are different from us (if you get a chance, listen to a YouTube interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, Viet Nguyen, on his feelings of being an “other”).


Since the first Human Library in Copenhagen in 2000, there have been others all over the world, including in Singapore and Belarus. The San Diego Public Library recently hosted a Human Library event at their central location. People are the “books” in this library and their “stories” are their lives. It reminds me of the people in Fahrenheit 451 who memorized books so they wouldn’t be lost to history … but the “books” in the Human Library tell their own stories. The goal is to find “books” who are diverse in every way – religion, age, race, gender identity, occupation & life circumstances, and to have them tell their stories to patrons who “check them out” for a short period of time, usually between 20 and 45 minutes. Sometimes one is able to “renew” a book for an additional period of time if the conversation is especially inspiring.


We are planning our own “Human Library” project to be held in our library next fall. This should give us plenty of time to find willing “books.” Books are not paid for their time but feeding them is a must! I will keep you updated on the progress of our Human Library Project. If interested, please check out the website.


 | Real People Real Conversations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *