Human books come alive at the Toronto Public Library
The Toronto Public Library added volumes to its collection on Saturday, but these special books didn't have covers or appendices. And, they can talk. The Human Library, a special program piloted at five TPL branches this weekend, connected library card-holders with "human books" - real folks with unique life stories.
By calling a participating branch, library members could reserve a half-hour time slot with one of the human books, very much like they would place a paperback on hold. Participants in the program were members of the Toronto community chosen for their incredible stories, many having overcome adversity to celebrate great personal victories. A Tibetan Buddhist Monk, a breast cancer survivor, a cycling activist, a WW2 veteran and a runway model were among the human books available for one-on-one conversations.
I signed out my very own human book at the Bloor and Gladstone branch. Brandon Hibbs volunteered for the program because he enjoys public speaking and spreading awareness about people living with disabilities. Brandon is a 12th grade student living with Cerebral Palsy. Other than the obvious limitations of movement, he lives a life much like any 12th grader of this generation. Brandon loves music - Nickelback and Billy Talent being particular favourites - hockey, and spending a lot of time with friends. He currently broadcasts his own internet radio show, and plans to attend Seneca College for Radio Broadcasting when he graduates.
For Brandon, the program provided an opportunity tell stories that were meant to be shared. For me, it offered a chance to walk in someone else's shoes. It seems to me, that on a much bigger scale, a human library could really contribute to a harmonious and productive city as diverse as Toronto. I think we'd find that we're not really that different, after all. We may not see eye-to-eye on city politics, nor do we share the same tastes in music or sports, but Brandon and I found common ground as citizens of a city we both love.
Anne Marie Aikins, Manager of Corporate Communications for the TPL, is pleased with the response generated by The Human Library. With fingers tightly crossed, I hope that the successful pilot will help the program become a regular TPL feature.
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