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Human Library Event A Reminder Not To Judge Others ‘By Their Covers’

Above: A screenshot of the San Diego Central Library's website shows some of the "titles" that will be available at its Human Library event March 11, 2017.

Aired 3/14/17 on KPBS News.

Head down to San Diego's central library Saturday and you can check out … humans. A human library event will let visitors reserve people from all walks of life for a 20-minute conversation.

Instead of picking up a book at the San Diego Central Library Saturday, you'll be able to "check out" a living, breathing human being and learn their story directly.

A "Human Library" event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Library patrons will be able to "borrow" someone for a 20-minute conversation.

"Libraries are a place for learning, whether it's from words on a page or through a person sharing their experience," said Library Director Misty Jones. "We strive to foster a safe and engaging environment for open dialogue. This project fits perfectly with our mission of inspiring lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other."

Available "titles" at Saturday's event include a suicide-attempt survivor, a transgender person, a triple amputee, a Muslim, an online journalist, a domestic violence victim, an anarchist and a person who is blind. All are volunteering their time and willing to share their stories.

"As with a print book, you turn the pages and it's a journey of discovery that you take with all the plot twists and turns," said librarian Erwin Magbanua. "It's kind of the same thing when you talk to a human being, or a human book. I can guarantee you that there are a few surprises there."

The Human Library concept originated in 2000 in Denmark as part of an anti-violence program and has since become an international movement. Local organizers said they hope the city's program will foster mutual respect and understanding among residents and visitors of San Diego.

"Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of San Diego's identity, and this project is a reminder of that," said Joel Day, executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission.

"Everybody has a story to tell, and just like a book, we shouldn't judge somebody by their cover — we must get to know them, empathize and understand their point of view," Day said. "This is the key to a city that is socially cohesive and resilient to hate."

The event will take place on the ninth floor. A library card is not required.

Just like a book, Magbanua said you get one renewal if you want to keep the conversation going.

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