The Hobart Human Library delivers diversity education workshops in schools and workplaces to address discrimination and bullying through the power of personal storytelling. It is a library with a difference – the books are real, living people who have been trained to tell their stories. Human libraries are used around the world as a simple way to challenge stereotypes and build empathy. They do this by providing a comfortable space for people to speak with a ‘book’ who has encountered discrimination because of their culture, religion, refugee background, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability.
Organisation mission: Tasmanians working together for a just, peaceful and sustainable world future.
Contact: A Fairer World, Helen Hortle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Education for Sustainability Tasmania endorsement ranking: Highly commended
Status: Ongoing beyond March 2017
Awards won for the initiative:
More information: website, Facebook
Description of the initiative
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
The Hobart Human Library has been created to address discrimination and bullying through the power of personal storytelling. It is a library with a difference – the books are real, living people who have been trained to tell their stories.
Human libraries are used around the world as a simple way to challenge stereotypes and build empathy. They do this by providing a comfortable space for people to speak with a ‘book’ who has encountered discrimination because of their culture, religion, refugee background, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability.
During a ‘reading’, books tell their story and allow time for questions. Short introduction and debrief sessions ensure that participants have an opportunity to discuss the links between stereotyping and discrimination. Librarians supervise all events and reading is based on mutual respect: all books must be returned in the same condition in which they were borrowed. Workshops generally run for 90 minutes but this is negotiable to suit different formats.
The Hobart Human Library provides a diversity education workshop that can be booked for schools, workplaces, public or private events, including conferences. It is an excellent addition to workplace anti-discrimination and diversity training and for schools is an excellent support for the Respectful Schools and Workplaces Framework.
What is your educational message?
The Hobart Human Library strives to build an appreciation of the value of a diverse community – the contribution that people with varying ideas, cultural practices, belief systems, worldviews, identities, experiences, and demographic differences bring to the life of a community.
What are the benefits?
Bullying and discrimination are most often based on stereotypes, myths and misinformation. These are maintained and perpetuated because people rarely have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with individuals from groups that are stigmatised or marginalised. By providing a safe environment – to meet, hear personal stories, and openly discuss the effects of discrimination – stereotypes and prejudices can be challenged and barriers broken-down.
Changes in behaviour achieved
These are some typical responses to the feedback form question “How will you apply what you’ve learned today?”: – Be kinder to others. – Acceptance of what is before me. Not to judge before speaking to the individual. – Thinking about biases more. – Be strong and speak out. – Changing my automated stereotypes. – Instigate more opportunities for discussion and take more time to listen to others. – Love the person even if you don’t agree with other aspects about their choices. – More listening and awareness of what people are going through/have been through.
Outcomes and associated measures of success
1. Number of workshops delivered and ongoing bookings. in 2016, 34 workshops were delivered to over 855 readers.
2. Comments on Feedback Forms, particularly:
– Rate how much this session has increased your understanding of other people’s lives. Average for 2016 has been 8.3 out of 10
– Rate your enjoyment of this session. Average for 2016 has been 8.8 out of 10
3. Endorsement by teachers, Equal Opportunity Tasmania, Department of Education.