Library branch pilots new ‘check out’

Libraries have been traditionally about books. Now a Cincinnati library branch is piloting a program to let its patrons “check out” a human.

The Pleasant Ridge branch of the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library is bringing the “Human Library” program started in Denmark in 2000 to the Greater Cincinnati region, a first in much of the United States.

The library is seeking volunteers who would be willing to serve as “human books,” open to sharing their stories and experiences for about 20 minutes with library customers who will “check out” the human-book volunteer.

Pleasant Ridge library branch manager Jennifer Korn

“These are people books with stories to tell, and typically the best “books” are people who have been judged by others for some aspect of their personality or life,” said Jennifer Korn, manager of the Pleasant Ridge library branch. “Examples might include a person of color, someone who overcame a significant hardship, an immigrant, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a military veteran, a religious convert, a political activist, etc. If a person believes their experience is unique and feel comfortable sharing it, that’s the perfect ‘human book.'”

The library is seeking volunteers to sign up by Oct. 15 in order to do training before the Nov. 12 “check out” event. The event on Nov. 12 will occur at All Saints Episcopal Church, a short walk from the Pleasant Ridge library branch which is under construction. The volunteer “human books” need to be available for two hours on Nov. 12.

The Human Library program has occurred in just a few other U.S. cities, including New York City, Los Angeles and Fort Wayne, Ind.

“This is a pretty big deal and we are thrilled to host it here,” said Joe Wessels, a library spokesman.

The goal of the “Human Library” is to build community conversation, civility and dialogue to foster understanding between people with differing life experiences. The Denmark nonprofit organization — https://humanlibrary.org/ — has grown into a global organization using its model to help companies and other organizations break down barriers.

The library is partnering with Pleasant Ridge nonprofit Community Happens Here, founded by attorney Ruth Anne Wolfe in 2017 to foster more connectedness in the Pleasant Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods through a co-working space.

If you’d like to volunteer, contact the Pleasant Ridge library branch at pls@chpl.org or call 513-369-4488, option 2, or call Community Happens Here at 513-666-1209.