A Human Library is a system of lending a "Human Book" where people become books to share their experiences or spread knowledge they have. It can be made by meeting one to one or by meeting groups of people. It started in 2000 in Denmark to resolve conflicts as a result of prejudice against other people, designed by social activist, Ronni Abergel. There are so many human libraries in the world, and also there are three human libraries in Korea. One of them is in the University of Seoul (UOS), so The UOS Times would like to introduce “Seoul Human Library” and share their ideas with UOS students. We interviewed Lee Hyeon-chang, and Kim Seon-hui who are working for Seoul Human Library.
Please introduce Seoul Human Library.
Human Libraries were introduced to Korea in 2009, and Seoul Human Library started in 2014 in UOS. The main value of our human library is to overcome the prejudices against other people who are different from me. Human libraries in Korea tend to focus on sharing ideas and knowledge that is specialized, so we try to maintain the initial value of a human library. That is our ultimate goal.
How can we use the human library, and how can we become a human book?
Any Seoul citizen who wants to break the walls of the prejudices through communication with human books can use the human library without limitation. There are two ways to meet human books. First, you can meet human books in person when you apply through our official homepage (seoulhumanlibrary.org) Second, you can apply for the events to meet the human books. Events are notified on the homepage and Facebook.
Also, anyone who wants to share their experiences or social minority can be a human book. If you want to be a human book, fill in an application form on the homepage, and then interview with five of us. We not only evaluate the suitability of the theme but consider initiatives of appliers, and honesty. After being approved, they can act as a human book.
What is the strong point in comparison with other human libraries?
The methods of operation are similar to other human libraries. For example, usage fee for lending a human book is free. However, Seoul Human Library is totally operated by volunteers in comparison with other human libraries that have paid for manuscripts of human books. Therefore, it is so meaningful, and we can get a lot of sustainability in our operation.
Thus, in the case of other human libraries, the main purpose is somewhat modified according to the characters of the institutions, such as human books consisted of only retired seniors, which is operated by institutions for the employment service of the senior citizens. However, we support various communications among people without any boundaries of participants and themes. Therefore, I think diversity and openness is a strong point of Seoul Human Library.
What efforts do you make to activate Seoul Human Library?
We hold a monthly event, called “Monthly Human Book.” It is a program that invites a human book as a lecturer and gives a lecture once a month. Previously, it was held only on vacation as a short-term event, but we have tried to increase the sustainability of the event. This could give a sense of stability to the readers if we held this event regularly and also be a good promotion.
Also, we promote Seoul Human Library every month on media. At first, we were concerned that human books are actually not specialists, and at first there were only about ten readers. However, as we promote regularly, more and more people have become interested in this program. Recently, many people visited us and asked for consultations. They said they got to know about the Seoul Human Library on social media, and the homepage seems to be operated very well, so they have become interested in this program. Thus, Seoul Human Library will be more activated because there are many people who are willing to volunteer if their stories are helpful to other people.
Who is the most memorable human book?
There is a human book, Shin Chang-sik, who is operating a social enterprise for those who are hearing-impaired. He felt sad that many people with hearing handicaps have difficulty with getting a job or work in poor working environments. Therefore, he decided to make an enterprise for a printing business, which they could work at, and give them an opportunity to learn how to design. He invested almost all of his money for this work. Surprisingly, when he worked as a human book, that year was the first year reaching the break-even point. If any UOS students have an interest in social enterprise, I recommend them to meet him.
What kind of human books do you recommend to UOS students?
There are various kinds of human books in Seoul Human Library, so all of the books would be helpful and meaningful. However, considering that many students have difficulty with getting a job these days, I recommend them to use the “Alumni Human Book” program. We are planning this program on Dec. 22, and students can meet and communicate with the alumni working in the various fields that students are interested in. It would be a great help to find their future job and get a lot of useful information. Also, there are many human books about start-ups. Many students are interested in establishing a business these days, so I recommend them to use a human book regarding start-ups.
What is the ultimate goal of Seoul Human Library?
As we said, we are going to deal with social problems and break prejudices people have, so that we can alleviate social conflicts. People in their twenties tend to be more concerned about social problems in comparison with other generations, so as a hope for more young people to express their concern with society, we are going to plan an event for solving social problems next year. I heard that many UOS students are also concerned about social problems, so I hope that they would participate in this program actively. For that, a lot of professional and personal connections will be needed. We are going to make greater efforts for this and develop this program.
I always ask human books to think about their past, present, and future. Through looking back on their lives, it could also be a good opportunity to organize their lives for human books, too. Even though human books are not always successful people, their stories could be a help to people because people can sympathize with their stories and take courage to get through bad situations. Therefore, do not hesitate to become a human book.
Through this interview, we found out the ideas that Seoul Human Library has, and how much effort they are making for it. Interviewees said finally that they hope more UOS students will use Seoul Human Library. There are 110 human books as 110 themes in Seoul Human Library. The UOS Times recommends you to use Seoul Human Library and have meaningful experiences with it.