Living library in Lismore starts a new venture in Australia
By SAMANTHA WILLIAMS firstname.lastname@example.org THE adage 'don't judge a book by its cover' has taken on a whole new meaning on the North Coast.
Instead of borrowing literature at the library, book lovers can now borrow a person a new venture started at Lismore Library that is taking hold in Australia.
"I have 50 to 100 conversations a day saying 'hi', 'goodbye' and about the weather, and this is a good chance to get to know each other's life out of everyday conversation," said Amelia Hosseini, who is one of the 'books' taking part in Lismore's Living Library.
Titled Baha'i Youth, the 17-year-old can be borrowed for 30 minutes on the first Friday of the month, when she tells lenders about her background, religion and life.
"When I'm 'borrowed' and sit down with the person I'm an open book. They ask questions about my life and if I don't want to answer then I say 'sorry, that chapter is closed'," she said.
"The good thing about living books is that they always get returned after 30 minutes, not 30 years.
"The other day I borrowed a book and found out more things about this person who I had known for 10 years."
Another living book is Aboriginal artist Albert 'Digby' Moran, who took part because he wanted to break down the barriers between 'white and black'.
As he is a storyteller through his artworks, the 59-year-old finds it easy to tell people about his life, including what it was like to grow up as an Aborigine in a white school where he was called names.
"Everyone has a story to tell. People just need to take more time to listen," Mr Moran said.
Lismore Library launched the program in November last year, basing it on a similar Danish concept established to counter racism and violence among young people.
Lismore, in an Australian first, started with 40 living books, which has now grown to 60, including 'titles' on breast cancer, a Catholic nun, homelessness, and a Muslim.
By the end of this year there will be a living library in every State except Tasmania after Lismore was recently given a Federal Government grant of $150,000 to establish an Australian-wide strategy for Living Library.
"We wanted to break down the barriers and stereotypes, and get the community talking one-on-one to people they would not normally meet," librarian Lucy Kinsley said.
"It celebrates diversity, fosters respect and counters fear and prejudice in the community. The principle is similar to a normal library, with the difference being that instead of borrowing a book a person of interest may be chosen."