By Rob F
flickr image by Cockburn Libraries
At the 2011 SLANZA Conference I was impressed by a session called “Hosting a Living Library in your school” taken by Colleen Shipley, from Marlborough Girls College. This is a way to add to the dynamism of your school library, encouraging students to engage with people as sources of information.
Colleen organised a Living Library day with 18 “living books” as part of Library Promotion Week in 2008. As a result of its popularity she repeated it on a smaller scale in 2010.
Frequently-cited benefits of Living (or Human) Libraries are encounters with people who experience prejudice, talking with someone outside your normal zone of comfort, hearing what it was like to be part of a dramatic event in history or scientific expedition.
Consider the potential in a school with Māori, Pasifika or immigrant students where there are few resources in home languages. This is an opportunity to showcase other cultures and their experiences.
I interviewed Colleen for this feature. Here are my questions and her answers:
R: What attracted you to the idea of Living Libraries?
C: When LIANZA put the suggestion out for Library Promotion Week in 2008, I did some reading and thought it was an excellent way to get the girls buzzing, especially as we have a popular biography section.
R: What issues did you face in timetabling and promotion?
C: I timetabled it to fit with the health class which was studying discrimination in 2008 and media class in 2010. Plus we covered a lunch time- so it was open to everyone. We allowed 20 minute slots each, and for some that was enough, but a couple of girls came and “renewed their books”. Promotion was done in assembly, via newsletter and a general tell-girls-about-it when they visit the library. We also had support with an article in the newspaper.
R: How did you recruit your “Books”?
C: We kept an eye out in local newspaper for stories of interesting people, canvassed staff for ideas or contact agencies appropriate to the “book.” The local district health nurse was very useful.
R: What excited you about the experience?
C: Seeing the girls engage with complete strangers was very rewarding and the feedback was amazing. The “books” stayed on for an afternoon tea together and although they often felt self conscious about talking about themselves they found the experience rewarding. In some cases it also changed their prejudices against teenagers.
R: Any warnings?
C: Be prepared for some books to not turn up because something else crops up, and a phone call reminder the day before helps even if they say they don’t need it.
R: Are you happy for people to contact you directly for more information or sample documents?
C: Certainly, love to help.
Thank you, Colleen.
If you have further questions, contact Colleen : ColleenS@mgc.school.nz
For further information: