A Danish invention
The living library concept was first developed in 2000 by the Danish non-government youth organisation, Stop the Violence.
In 2003, the living library became part of the Council of Europe’s programme. The “driving force behind its inclusion was the realisation that human rights cannot be defended and promoted by legal texts alone. There is – today more than ever in the recent past – a need to raise awareness among the wider public about the importance of human rights to the fabric of our democracies and the responsibility of the individual citizen in realizing abstract human rights in his or her everyday interactions”.
The idea has since spread around the world to more than 45 countries and is coordinated by the international Human Library organisation based in Denmark.
The first Australian living library was initiated in 2006 by Lismore resident Sabina Baltruweit with support from Lismore City Council.
From 2007-2010 the Department of Immigration and Citizenship funded the creation of Living Libraries Australia as “a national strategy for connecting and strengthening local communities through conversation”. The funding provided for the development of a website and resource kits.
In October 2010, the name was changed from Living Libraries Australia to Human Libraries Australia in response to a name change by the international organisation.
The program is now managed by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) through its Public Libraries Advisory Committee (PLAC) and the PLAC Human Libraries Australia Sub-Committee.
The Tasmanian experience
There are currently 32 human libraries around Australia listed on the national website. This includes one in Launceston. The Launceston Human Library was created in 2008 as an initiative of the Launceston City Council in partnership with LINC Tasmania and the community at large to promote diversity and perceived safety issues in Launceston. It has been a successful project that continues to run a monthly program with around 30 living books currently catalogued.
The Hobart Human Library is auspiced by A Fairer World, a social justice hub that empowers schools and the wider community to take action for social justice, peace and a sustainable world future. The Human Library operates through its Global Learning Resource Library which is a public library and registered charity with Tax Deductible Gift Recipient status. A Fairer World maintains the catalogue and also houses banners, display boards, tables, chairs and other resources (at a central location in Battery Point) that can be used at events.