Hobart Human Library
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
The Hobart Human Library uses the art of storytelling to break down barriers and build empathy. It provides a safe space for ‘readers’ to speak informally with a human ‘book’.
The Hobart Human Library offers a full workshop or a shorter Inclusion Forum. Both are available in person, by Zoom and as a flexible online course.
The human ‘books’ are Tasmanians who have experienced stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination and trained as community educators. Their personal experience of bias may be because of their culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, mental health, or a disability.
For schools, the Hobart Human Library workshop supports Tasmanian education priorities: the Respectful Schools and Workplaces Framework; Respectful Relationships Education; and the Child and Student Wellbeing Strategy. It is also the first step in our Let’s Get Together diversity education program. Read more about how the Hobart Human Library works in schools below.
For workplaces, the Hobart Human Library is the first workshop in our Diversity and Inclusion Training program. Other workshops include Unconscious Bias, Inclusive Language and Inclusion Strategies. To find out more, go to our Diversity and Inclusion Training page.
The Hobart Human Library can also be booked for conferences and other events.
“I have had great feedback from attendees from our library about the engagement, learning and thought provoking nature of the event. I personally had attended the human library 2 years ago and gained even more the second time around. I still think about some of the ‘books’ I read 2 years ago and use their stories to help me in my work with clients, staff and the broader community. I hope the Huonville catchment team in the library will take some time to reflect on the session and how we can use our learnings to better develop and refine our services to meet the needs of a the wonderfully diverse community that we live and work in.”
– David Gutteridge, Director, Strategy and Engagement, Libraries Tasmania
“The human library workshop was inspirational. The incredible strength and determination of the ‘books’ was humbling, and I was amazed when one of the ‘books’ told me how empowering she finds it to tell her story. The experience demonstrated how challenging it can be to face discrimination and strengthened my resolve to avoid being judgemental.”
– Government House professional development workshop participant
“Thank you. The ‘books’ (and the organisers) are heroes of humanity. Very grateful.”
– Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) staff member
The Hobart Human Library workshop in workplaces and schools are run like a ‘speed dating’ forum, with groups of 4-6 people ‘reading’ a ‘book’ for 10 to 20 minutes then moving on to another ‘book’.
During a ‘reading’, ‘books’ tell their story and allow time for questions.
Workshops generally run for 90 to 120 minutes to suit client needs.
Short introduction and debrief sessions ensure that participants have an opportunity to discuss the links between empathy, stereotyping, prejudice/bias and discrimination.
Feedback is collected at the end of all workshops and provided to the client.
The Hobart Human Library can be delivered face-to-face or as six flexible half-hour virtual sessions.
The Inclusion Forum is offered as an alternative to the full Hobart Human Library workshop. It is ideal as a taster or refresher, for schools or workplaces, or for larger audiences, such as at conferences.
Like the Hobart Human Library an Inclusion Forum uses the art of storytelling to break down barriers and build empathy. It provides an opportunity for audiences to hear the personal experience of prejudice from two human ‘books’ and ask questions in a Q & A that we call, “You can ask that!”
An Inclusion Forum can be from 45 to 60 minutes and is delivered either in person or virtually using Zoom. For workplaces, there is also a flexible online version Inclusion in Practice which is delivered as six half-hour sessions.
An Inclusion Forum can cover one or two themes, for example gender, sexuality, disability, culture or mental health.
For workplaces in Hobart, the Inclusion Forum is a perfect ‘lunchbox’ session. Staff can explore selected diversity themes and ways of being more inclusive in a relaxed setting.
Feedback: The average rating by RACT staff for a lunchtime Inclusion Forum was 97%. These are some of their comments:
- It was just so good to be able to be in a room feeling safe and having no judgement.
- Hearing stories. Chloe and Andy are awesome!
- It was great to have a Q and A session after Chloe and Andy and for them to be so open answering our questions.
- Loved it all.
Feedback from over 200 workshops shows that the Hobart Human Library is an effective way to build empathy through an increased awareness of the effects of bias. It is an innovative and interactive professional development workshop that engages staff and contributes to creating positive cultural change in workplaces.
Other workshops available in our Diversity and Inclusion Training program build an understanding of unconscious bias and practical strategies to do inclusion better, both personally and organisationally.
All workshops are co-designed and co-delivered with our community educators, who have personal experience of discrimination.
Visit our Diversity & Inclusion Training page for more information.
A visit from the Hobart Human Library will support:
- Tasmanian education priorities: the Respectful Schools and Workplaces Framework; Respectful Relationships Education; and the Child and Student Wellbeing Strategy.
- The General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum, in particular the development of personal and social capability, ethical understanding, and intercultural understanding.
- The content in a number of Australian Curriculum Learning Areas, particularly Health and Physical Education. There are also opportunities to engage with other Learning Areas especially in English, Civics and Citizenship, History and the Arts.
The Hobart Human Library can be used to:
- widen perspectives of the pervasiveness and implications of stereotyping through hearing first-hand the stories of people who have personally experienced the effects of discrimination;
- explore what makes up identity and how this can shape our experiences of inclusion and exclusion;
- extend appreciation of diversity and human rights; and
- develop empathy, empathetic listening and perspective-taking.
Have you ever been interested to hear from someone what it’s really like to seek asylum in Australia by boat? Or maybe you’re curious about what it would be like to come out and tell your loved ones you’re gay?
The Hobart Human Library provides an opportunity for person-to-person conversations with individuals whose experiences we may not otherwise get the opportunity to hear directly.
All our ‘books’ are trained as community educators to tell their stories in a safe and engaging way and answer questions about their personal experiences.
We are constantly recruiting and training new human ‘books’ and generally have around 25 – 30 active ‘books’ in our catalogue. These are a sample of human ‘books’ from our catalogue:
The Totem Pole (Paul)
I was a world class mountaineer. Then a falling boulder inflicted a terrible brain injury. Doctors thought I might never walk or talk again. Two decades later I reflect on the longest climb of my life.
Read more about Paul’s story.
Born with Determination (Glenda)
Hear a person of short stature tell her story of challenges, successes and hope in life.
Read more about Glenda’s story.
Female to Me (Andy)
Ever wondered what female to male transgender people are like? Media rarely even mentions FtMs, and our experiences vary greatly from person to person.
Read more about Andy’s story.
The Hobart Human Library is always recruiting and training new human ‘books’ to join its diverse catalogue.
“I am a person of short stature and since I have told my story in the Hobart Human Library, I have been amazed at the interest from the ‘readers’ of all ages and from all backgrounds. The ‘readers’ are involved and engaged in the story, and can ask questions at the end. This increases awareness in many different ways: of people who are same-sex attracted, people from other countries, and people with an acquired brain injury or disability, to name just a few.”
– Glenda Radcliffe, human book
- have encountered prejudice or stereotyping because of your culture, religion, refugee background, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability; and
- would like to share your own true story face-to-face, to increase understanding and acceptance of difference
…then maybe you are just the person we are looking for! The Hobart Human Library is a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to use your difference to make a difference. All human ‘books’ receive training, cost reimbursement and formal recognition, as well as the satisfaction of making a difference.
We are always looking for new librarians to join the Hobart Human Library.
Librarians look after the human ‘books’ and help to prepare for workshops. During workshops, librarians monitor the comfort of ‘books’ and readers, help with reading rotations and assist with activities and collecting feedback. A background in support work or education is useful in this role.
Human libraries are a hugely successful international human rights initiative which promote understanding and acceptance at a grassroots level.
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.
Primarily, the aim of a library with living ‘books’ was “…to create constructive personal dialogues between people who would normally not have the opportunity to speak to each other and thus challenge common prejudices and stereotypes.”
The Human Library (the name having been changed from Living Libraries in 2010) has since spread around the world to more than 85 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.
The Tasmanian experience
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 20 living books currently catalogued.
In 2013, the Hobart Human Library was formed by a group of organisations including A Fairer World, Hobart Women’s Shelter, Amnesty International, the Community Friends and Networks Programme of the University of Tasmania, and Anglicare Tasmania. The Hobart Human Library further developed the human library experience to be a guided professional workshop which could be delivered at schools, workplaces, conferences and community events.