a montage of faces with eyes obscured

Everyone has a story to share

20 March 2017
Human ‘Books’ help break down barriers at new Living Library

At our Living Library, people will be the books and share their experiences as part of the University's commitment to build a culture of inclusion and diversity on campus.

‘Everyone has a story to share’ is the motto of the new Living Library opening at the century-old Fisher Library next week.

Just like any normal library, books will be available to borrow, engage with and learn from. Except the Books, in this instance, will be real people with a unique personal experience or perspective that they will generously share with Readers.

Run by the University of Sydney’s Library, the National Centre for Cultural Competence and Widening Participation and Outreach, with the support of the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), the Living Library supports the University’s commitment to build a culture based on the values of inclusion and diversity.

“It’s intended to challenge stereotypes and create understanding,” said Mary Teague, Head of Widening Participation and Outreach.

“The Living Library provides an opportunity for Books to tell their stories and for Readers to connect with people they might not otherwise encounter; to ask questions, and listen.

There’s power in the immediacy of hearing someone tell their story which can sometimes be lost in the written word. One-to-one conversations can encourage understanding and empathy; that’s what we hope this initiative will achieve.
Mary Teague, Head of Widening Participation and Outreach

The Books will be volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, from inside and outside the University community, Ms Teague explained.

“They may have encountered discrimination themselves, or represent groups or people in society at greater risk of stigma or prejudice, or not have the opportunity to voice their perspective, and they are generously offering to share their stories.”

Belinda Norman, Associate Director, Community and Administration, University Library, said the pilot program offered a valuable opportunity to engage with the cultural competence strategy on campus.

“We’ve created a safe, relaxed and open space for people to have a genuine exchange of ideas and experiences in the style of the ‘Ask us anything’ video featuring LGBTIQ students and staff,” Ms Norman said.

We invite everyone on campus to take part, to find out something they didn’t know before and to be open to a different way of seeing the world.
Belinda Norman, Associate Director, Community and Administration, University Library
A photo of Omid.

Omid Tofighian, an academic and a Senior Project Officer at the University of Sydney’s National Centre for Cultural Competence.

Omid Tofighian, an academic and a Senior Project Officer at the University of Sydney’s National Centre for Cultural Competence, will feature among the Books under the title ‘Out of Bounds, or Just a Few Minor Epics’. Originally from Iran, Omid comes from a long line of storytellers. He arrived in Australia aged seven, after moving through several continents.

“My story is about always finding myself out of bounds,” he said.

“A revolution, an ousted monarch, a persecuted religious group forced underground and into exile, a hostage crisis, forever navigating borders, visas, passports, citizenship, displacement.

“However my story also connects with others; out of place, or out of bounds, for the rest of their lives.” 

A photo of Nerine.

Nerine Corbett, a University of Sydney student, will share her story in the Living Library.

‘Invisibly ill: The unseen story of living with chronic pain’ is the title Nerine Corbett has chosen for herself. A psychology and philosophy student at the University of Sydney, she has experienced chronic pain since 2014.

“Chronic illnesses teach you two things,” she said.

“That illness is not always visible, and is more pervasive and destructive than many people imagine. And that you do not have time.

“Do not make the mistake of only appreciating what you have after it is already gone and do not put off the things you want most for a more convenient time, for such a time may never come.”

Living Libraries began in Denmark in 2000 and have spread to libraries and festivals across the world.

Join the conversation



Event details

Time: 12-2pm, Books are on loan for 20 minute slots during this period

Dates: Monday 27 March, Tuesday 4 April and Wednesday 12 April

Location: Fisher Library, Seminar Room Level 2

Related articles