The project Human Library in Action against Prejudice is an innovative, interactive and, until now, little-used concept in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, but also in the whole of Croatia. The project aims to promote and protect human rights, reduce prejudice and foster understanding and tolerance. The Human Library method represents a successful instrument in the promotion of human rights, and its function is twofold. On the one hand, members of vulnerable and stigmatized groups who are involved in the action are given an opportunity for empowerment, as well as an opportunity to become active participants in the creation of a more tolerant society that respects the rights of all citizens. On the other hand, by engaging in the dialogue, Human Library visitors are sensitized and informed: personal approach and experience help change their former views, reduce negative tensions and strengthen their empathy towards others who are different.
Two groups are distinguished in the action: volunteers ("human books") and visitors ("readers"), who can "borrow a book”, i.e. choose the person who they want to talk to about a specific topic. Human Library follows clear rules, and there are "librarians", i.e. volunteers who facilitate the event and serve as a bridge between visitors and "human books".
The main objective is to sensitize the public in order to foster understanding and acceptance of the members of vulnerable social groups and to reduce prejudice and stereotypes in society.
The specific objectives of the action are:
- The public informed and sensitized to the problems faced by the members of vulnerable groups in society,
- Visibility of human rights issues in the local community increased,
- Members of vulnerable groups empowered,
- Capacity of local CSOs in the field of human rights strengthened,
- Volunteer activities in CSOs in the field of human rights improved.
1. Identifying volunteers interested in participating in the Human Library as "human books"
Volunteers were identified in collaboration with other organizations and partners. Ten people that were selected to participate in the Human Library in the role of "human books" represent the following literary titles: Lesbian, Gay Man, Bisexual Person, Transgender Person, Person with Disability, Mother of a Child with Developmental Difficulties, Roma Man, Roma Girl, Serbian Woman, Homeless Person, Female Soccer Player, Female Stand-up Comedian, Former Addict, and Vegan.
2. Training on carrying out the Human Library
A five-hour training on carrying out the Human Library was held on 11thApril (12 – 5 p.m.). The aim of the training was to familiarize the participants with the objectives and the method of the Human Library, as well as its rules, behaviour in engaging in a dialogue etc. Also, within the practical part of the training, participants had an opportunity to experience and exercise engaging in a dialogue with one another. The training was led by Đurđa Živković from Belgrade, who acquired competence in conducting the Human Library within the Council of Europe programme in 2013 and repeatedly participated in such projects herself. Sixteen people attended the training.
3. Meetings with Human Library volunteers and other CSOs
Preparing for the action, we held 2 meetings with volunteers – "human books" – in order to ensure their better understanding of the role they were to have in the action. In these meetings, we also discussed possible problematic situations with "the readers" – the public. The first meeting was held on 21st April, several days before the action at the Hotel and Tourism Management School in Opatija, and was attended by 12 people. The second meeting – which was held on 11th May, two days before the action at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – was attended by 18 participants.
4. Human Library for secondary-school students in Opatija
Our first Human Library was held on 24th April at the Hotel and Tourism Management School in Opatija. Six living books (mother of a child with developmental difficulties, homeless man, Serbian woman, bisexual, pansexual and transgender persons) and 28 high school students participated in the action. Students had an opportunity to read “human books” for 90 minutes. The anonymously completed evaluations showed the exceptional efficiency of this method – what the students appreciated the most was the openness, honesty and diversity of the “books”.
5. Human Library for university students and general public
Human Library in Action against Prejudice was held on 13th May between 5 and 8 p.m. at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Ten "human books" participated in the action, presenting 12 literary titles (Lesbian, Gay Man, Bisexual Person, Transgender Person, Person with Disability, Mother of a Child with Developmental Difficulties, Roma Man, Roma Girl, Serbian Woman, Female Soccer Player, Female Stand-up Comedian, and Vegan), and 7 volunteers facilitated the event.
Approximately 110 people visited the Human Library and participated as "readers", which exceeded all our expectations. The public showed great interest in this action, and there were also many visitors that read more than two “books”.
The project is financially supported by National Foundation for Civil Society Development, EEA Grants, Norway Grants, Hil foundation and filia. die frauenstiftung.