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Beijing Opens First Human Library

updated: 2011-12-27

China Daily, December 26, 2011  
Li Xingning has nurtured the dream of being a librarian ever since she was a child. Her dream came true on this Christmas, only that her books were real people.
Beijing's first human library opened on Saturday night, with dozens of readers and six "living books" exchanging their life stories and ideas.
Books in a human library are real people who engage readers in a direct dialogue. Readers can't take a living book out of the library.
"Here we get to know people who have interesting life stories to share, and also understand who they are and why they live in a particular way," said Li Xingning, who ran the human library.
The 28-year-old architect hoped her library would serve as an interactive platform to promote mutual understanding among people who otherwise had no opportunity to meet and talk in real life.
"Think about a street singer you always wonder about or an animal protection advocate that you have never met. Here you can borrow such living books and talk with them," she said.
The human library concept originated in Denmark in 2000, and the idea has since spread around the world to more than 45 countries. In China, such libraries have sprouted in Shanghai and Guangzhou. It aims to reduce prejudices and promote tolerance and understanding via dialogue.
A living book is a person that has chosen to be a representative of a certain group.
Inside the 120-square-meter library, Li and her colleagues painted one side of the wall to resemble exquisite bookshelves filled with books. Yu Shi, one of the six volunteer "living books", was playing a guitar, singing John Lennon's Imagine.
"If there were more people willing to share their stories, there might be fewer misunderstandings," Yu, 24, said.
Yu has been living a vagabond's life for nine months, traveling from Southwest China's Yunnan province all the way to Beijing, with only little money and a guitar.

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