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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

A book that walks the talk

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Interaction is the key driving force behind new technologies. Lismore Library is running a program that is interactive in its purest form: the Lismore Human Library. It is an opportunity for readers to choose a human story and spend half an hour with the subject to listen and ask questions.

The previous name of the service was the Lismore Living Library, which many readers may be familiar with. The name was copyrighted in America so a worldwide decision was made to change to its current name.

‘The program has run for five years and was the first of its kind in Australia,’ Lucy Kinsley the Lismore area librarian told Echonetdaily.

‘It started as a one-off session but the demand was so great another session was organised. It was originally started by the community but was then incorporated into the normal library program.’

Apart from being at the forefront of interactive media, I asked Lucy what were some of the qualities of this program.

‘It is really an opportunity to talk to people that you may not meet in your normal life, because of the wide range of subjects available. There are stories of refugees, homelessness, occupation-related stories, religion, losing someone to suicide etc. We see it as bringing the community together, a focal point and gathering. The Library is seen as a friendly space and this is an exchange of information.

‘Each talk between the reader and human book is different every time.’

Human books volunteer for the monthly sessions and additional outreach services. Aged-care facilities enjoy the program and schools use the sessions in development of their own programs. Depending on availability, the human books rotate.

On the day, human books have an information sheet that is placed on a board for readers to choose from. There are no photos, only a name and a subject. Once you make your choice, you are then introduced to your human book. There are designated spaces available where you sit and begin your interaction.

The sessions are held the first Friday of each month. If you would like to become a Human Book and share some of your life story, you will need to sign a child protection form, read three other human books and understand certain guidelines, such as you are not obliged to answer every question asked of you.

The library is in the process of updating its website so readers can see beforehand which human books will be present on the day.

Read more Stuart’s story of seafaring


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