library, realizing that books are not the only things being
judged by their covers, will give visitors a different
opportunity this weekend—to borrow a Muslim, a
lesbian, or a Dane.
The city library in Malmo, Sweden's
third-largest city, will let curious visitors check
out living people for a 45-minute chat in a project meant
to tear down prejudices about different religions,
nationalities, or professions. The project, called
Living Library, was introduced at Denmark's Roskilde
Festival in 2000, librarian Catharina Noren said. It
has since been tried at a Copenhagen library as well as in
Norway, Portugal, and Hungary.
The people available to be "borrowed" also
include a journalist, a gypsy, a blind man, and an
animal rights activist. They will be available
Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with a Malmo city
festival and are meant to give people "a new
perspective on life," the library said in a statement.
"There are prejudices about everything," Noren said.
"This is about fighting those prejudices and promoting coexistence."
Borrowing a person will be free, and the library
will also provide coffee at its cafe where the "living
books" will answer questions about their lives,
beliefs, or jobs. "It's supposed to be relaxed and
human-to-human," Noren said.
Malmo, located on Sweden's southwestern coast,
has one of Sweden's largest immigrant communities. It
is also located just a narrow strait away from
Denmark, and centuries of warfare between the countries has
been replaced with a friendlier rivalry in recent decades.
Still, both nationalities have several stereotypes
about their neighbors. "Danish Radio called to ask
what prejudice we have about Danes," Noren said. "They
had some tough questions for me."
Interest in the project has been high, Noren
said, although the library does not allow
bookings—the human subjects will be checked out on a
first-come, first-served basis. And it will not necessarily
be people with prejudices who will take the
opportunity. "It could be that you're about to belong
to one of these categories yourself, such as someone
losing their eyesight," Noren said. "Or it could be
someone who just found out their child is a lesbian. But
then there are people who just want to unload a lot of
anger. These people [who get borrowed] are ready for
anything to happen."
The "living books" are all from the Malmo area
and were recruited via different organizations and
associations. However, it wasn't possible to find
suitable subjects from all desired professions. "We would
have liked to have a police officer and maybe a meter maid,"
Noren said. (AP)