The Living Library is a tool that seeks to challenge prejudice and discrimination. It works just like a normal library: visitors can browse the catalogue for the available titles, choose the book they want to read, and borrow it for a limited period of time. After reading, they return the book to the library and, if they want, borrow another. The only difference is that in the Living Library, books are people, and reading consists of a conversation.
The first-ever Living Library (Menneske Biblioteket in Danish) was organized in Denmark in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival. The original idea had been developed by a Danish Youth NGO called ‘Stop the Violence’ (Foreningen Stop Volden) as part of the activities they offered to festival goers.
The Living Library became part of the Council of Europe’s programme in 2003 and the driving force behind its inclusion was the realisation that human rights cannot be defended and promoted by legal texts alone. There is – today more than ever in the recent past – a need to raise awareness of the wider public of the importance of human rights to the fabric of our democracies and the responsibility of the individual citizen in realizing abstract human rights in his or her everyday interactions.