The Vancouver Public Library is about to get some interesting new additions to its collection.
30 “human books” will be coming to the library as part of the 2016 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Jan. 23-Feb. 7. Just what is a human book? It’s a real, live person that you check out and chat face-to-face with for about 20 minutes. And from the titles, these human books sound like real page-turners. People “on loan” this year range from “Drag King” to “8-year-old inventor.”
Inspiration for the event comes from Copenhagen, Denmark, where the first Human Library was launched in 2000 as a way to fight stereotypes and promote dialogue in the community. Human books typically represent stigmatized or marginalized groups of people – religious minorities, sexual minorities and others exposed to misconceptions and prejudice.
The idea is that curious readers will get to know these people on an individual level and learn more about their beliefs. So far, human libraries have connected thousands of readers with human books in 70 countries.
To participate in the unique event, head to the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch on the show dates (Jan. 23-24, 30-31 and Feb. 6-7, from noon to 4 p.m.) Inside, you’ll find a special PuSh Festival circulation desk where you’re issued a human library card, good for access to one of the 30 human books.
Upon signing out their “book,” visitors have a 20-minute, one-on-one session. Generally, the first 10 minutes consist of a short prepared speech, while the last 10 minutes are open to any and all questions – and the “books” aren’t shy.
The Human Library is free, and “books” are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to heavy demand, visitors are asked to arrive one-two hours before they expect to “read” their title.
The Human Library project is just one example of the envelope-pushing performing art you can experience at this year’s PuSh Festival – a mid-winter celebration of theatre, music, dance and multimedia on the stages and streets of Vancouver.
For the 2016 instalment, artists from around Vancouver and the world will offer up more than 150 performances and events over nearly three weeks at venues all over the city. Options vary widely, from interactive performances to highly polished theatre. Check out the full lineup of events on the PuSh website.