Living Library gives direct access to someone else’s experience, by allowing people to ‘borrow’ a person for a conversation. This might be someone who has significant personal experience or a particular perspective to share. Living Library can be used to confront stereotypes and prejudices, to explore diversity, and to stimulate conversations that otherwise might not happen. ‘Loans’ take the form of a conversation, and can last for a variable period, typically 30-60 minutes.
The case studies in this project were designed to explore a community development model of Living Library within public libraries in England. Local Living Library places an emphasis on local ownership of the events, relationship-building, and the discovery of themes and experience of local interest. In addition it contributes to the community cohesion agenda by helping people to explore issues of living with difference, in a safe, supported and relatively neutral environment. Four library authorities participated in this pilot: Bournemouth, Bradford, Kent and Staffordshire.
‘One might be too shy to start up a conversation normally but this made it possible.’ (Borrower, Sevenoaks)
‘They were able to explore questions they had about personal experiences of BME people and challenge stereotypes.’(Book, Bournemouth)
‘There have been lots of people I would have loved to talk to over the years to find out their story so this was a great opportunity to do
this.’ (Borrower, Sevenoaks)