11 extraordinary stories - one unforgettable day
On September 29, talk with living books! Watch TVCOGECO's FYI segment about Human Library @ BPL
Select from one of our human 'books'—local people with very interesting stories to tell—for a short loan period at the library. We'll have 'books' for both children and adults.
What is a Human Library?The first Human Library launched in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. The living library phenomenon has swept across all continents since then. Human Library is based on one simple idea: use dialogue to reduce prejudices and encourage understanding. The challenge is for each borrower to make the most of that learning opportunity.
What are the goals of Human Library?
Who are the human books?Our human books are volunteers who live and/or work in Burlington or Halton Region. They are your neighbours and they have a story to tell.
What will the human books talk about?Human books can tell you about their unique interests, jobs, and lives. There is a summary of the human books on our website that will give you an idea of their backgrounds and interests.
Can I ask them questions?Absolutely! The human books welcome your questions. There will be a helpful list of sample questions available at the library on September 29 in case you need a little help getting started.
What can I gain from talking to a human book that I could not get from a printed book?Most of our human books have not published their stories. Our human books are ordinary people, like most of us, who have experienced or accomplished extraordinary things.
How can I borrow a human book?Please call 905.639.3611 ext 1321 to book a timeslot to speak with one or more human books. We will keep a few spots open for day of the event that will be available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Can I reserve a human book?Yes, by calling 905.639.3611 ext 1321 to book a timeslot to speak with one or more human books.
What if the human book that I want to check out is not available?Check out the descriptions for other human books—there may be a different book available that you might enjoy checking out. You can also return later to see if there have been cancellations.
Can two or more people check out a human book together?No. The conversation you have with a human book is meant to be one-on-one and private between the two of you. This way you can ask questions that you might otherwise feel shy about asking, and is respectful of the book's privacy, too.
How long is the loan period?Each human book may be borrowed for 30 minutes.
What if a human book or reader finds a conversation upsetting?The human book or the reader may end the conversation at any time. Although all of our human books want to share their stories, they may decline to answer a question if they feel it is too personal or distressing.
Can I contact a human book after the event?Burlington Public Library will not provide any personal contact information about the human books. Books may choose to provide their own contact information at the event.
Can I apply to be a human book?All human books have been selected for our September 29 event and no date has been set for future programs. You may send contact information to the library if you are interested in volunteering for a future event. Please note, only those selected will be contacted.
Who do I contact for more information?Please contact Allison Stockton-Aird, Events Coordinator, at 905.639.3611 ext 1321.
How will Human Library work at BPL?
Meet Our "Living Books"
African aid volunteer and active grandma
A founding member of the Burlington Chapter of Grandmothers to Grandmothers, Elizabeth traveled to Africa with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and found the experience life-changing. There, she witnessed bravery first-hand from women who are watching a generation die of AIDS and war, as they themselves struggle to raise their grandchildren, and those of others. Their joyous spirit in the face of poverty and tragedy inspired Elizabeth, and she seeks to inspire others with their stories. Photo credit: Peter Bregg
Eco-motivated citizen doing all he can to live off-grid
After the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Russia in 1986, Paul decided that sustainable energy sources were the safest path for humanity, and the planet. He vowed to leave as small a footprint as possible from then on. Today, Paul lives in a home he built himself, using solar and wind energy for power, plants as much as he can grow on his property, and tries to recycle or reuse everything else. He insists that he's doing nothing special, and that anyone can live a more sustainable lifestyle with some knowledge, an open mind, and a desire to do what is right, instead of only what is easy.
Gay family man and tolerance champion
It is difficult for some to imagine what it means to live with discrimination and prejudice. These take many forms in our society, from ignorance to condemnation to bullying, and even violence. Attitudes ingrained from a young age toward race, gender, religion, political affiliation, and more are often at the root of intolerance. Marcus comes to our Human Library to share his story of discrimination based on sexual orientation. He speaks to us, not from a place of fear or uncertainty, but with the insight of someone who has learned to accept himself for who he is, and who champions tolerance, respect, and a voice that is heard.
Breast cancer survivor and elite athlete
An elite athlete all of her adult life, Jany was hit hard by a diagnosis of cancer when she was at her busiest, strongest, and most energetic. Subsequent chemotherapy and radiation treatments went on to damage muscle, reduce bone mass, and force Jany to live at a slower pace, but they never diminished her fighting spirit. Today, she is a sponsored cyclist, and continues her athletic lifestyle through nation-wide tournaments and events, as well as through her blog, Stay on Target: an athlete’s journal to life after cancer! Sports saved her life, and Jany's returning the favour by inspiring others with her story of hope, perseverance, and a 'never surrender' attitude.
Wheelchair basketball athlete and Paralympic gold medalist
Injured in a car accident at 12, Brandon is a firm believer that when one door closes, many open. He began playing wheelchair basketball for the local Burlington Vipers and received a scholarship to the University of Illinois where he graduated with a degree in sport management. Wheelchair basketball has given Brandon the opportunity to travel the world and in September he will be travelling to Paralympics in London to represent Canada! image source
Prisoner of War / POW camp survivor
Born to a British military family in Hong Kong at the outbreak of the Second World War, Jenny spent three and a half years of her childhood in a Japanese Army Prisoner of War camp in the Philippine Islands. Jenny , her mother and older brother and sister lived during that time under the heel of the Imperial Army, until a most historic and spectacular rescue took place when American GIs parachuted into her camp shortly before the end of the War in 1945. Jenny has given many talks across the province about her experience in an effort to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross. She has said that when released to freedom with virtually nothing, the Red Cross was there to help. Jenny lives in Burlington and loves to hike, sing and plays the bassoon in the Oakville Symphony.
Working mom of active toddler with Down syndrome
Two words changed this mother’s life forever: Down syndrome. For Heather and her family, having a child with a disability is the source of greater joy and a far richer life than they ever imagined. Heather reveals how often perceptions do not match reality, how her family is breaking down stereotypes and barriers, and how their four-year-old boy taught Heather and her husband what unconditional love means. For Heather, the unexpected was a true gift that connects her to people and places she never knew existed.
Award-winning mystery writer, globe-trotter and ex-diplomat
Recovering from a life-threatening health scare motivated this former journalist/diplomat/government executive/businessman to dust off his keyboard and get back to writing fiction after a forty year hiatus. Within eight months, Ian completed four books—with the first novel winning the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel in June 2012.
Books Especially for Kids
Veteran competitive horse rider—since age nine!
Currently a Political Science student at the University of Guelph, Alana has loved horses all her life. She started riding lessons over 16 years ago when she was 6 years old, then began competing at 9 years old. As a young rider she qualified for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Horse Show twice with her pony. Now a veteran rider she competes on her show jumper, Vincent (as he's known around the barn yard). Together they clear jumps that are 1.40m (or 4’ 7”) high. Alana was an honoured recipient of the Quest for Gold provincial athlete funding for 2012. We expect to see this dynamic duo in the showring for many years to come.
Firefighter, marathoner, and former Olympic kayaker
This "Performance Based Human” is a local firefighter with a lot of energy! Liam competed at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in 1000m, flat water, 4-man kayak and continues to train and compete as an athlete. He's training hard for a 15km marathon in October and has recently taken up the sport of paddle boarding. Find out how this super athlete is able focus, achieve, and win!
Book-loving dogs who love a great tale
Reading should be fun! By reading to a furry friend, children can improve their reading skills and increase their confidence, interest, and enjoyment in reading. Paws 4 Stories is a free program in which a specially-trained dog provides a non-judgmental audience for a school-aged child in a comfortable environment. Each dog is accompanied by a volunteer who is trained and screened by the St. John Ambulance. This Therapy Dog Service is just one of many that the non-profit organization provides throughout the community, in partnership with Burlington Public Library and others.
Everyone has a story.
Human Library at BPL is an Ontario Culture Days event. Read more about this national celebration of the arts and cultural life on our Canadian communities.