Human Interaction at the Library

It’s not a dating service, or a counselling session. It’s a conversation. It might lead to other things, who knows?

It’s the second time the Friends of the Whitehorse Library have hosted a Human Library at the Whitehorse Public Library. The first time was in March; there wasn’t a theme but it was very popular. The second one is coming up on Saturday, October 18. The human ‘books’ will represent a travel section; the theme is ‘travel’. There will be a woman from Brazil, the first Brazilian to compete as a curler in an international event. There will be a yoga teacher who came to the Yukon from South Africa, a school principal from Lebanon, and an Indonesian project supervisor.

Michael Dougherty is helping to organize the Human Library. He says the conversations between ‘books’ and ‘readers’ will be held in 30-minute time slots; it’s more of a conversation than an interview, he says, but the dialogue will be directed by the ‘reader’.

For example, with the South African yoga teacher, the ‘reader’ may want to know, “If I go to South Africa, what should I see?” or they may have a geopolitical question, like, “Where were you when Apartheid was going on?” Or the ‘reader’ may not care about that, they may want to know about yoga. And so that’s what they’ll discuss with the ‘book’.

The intent behind the Human Library is to break down barriers in society, and to build community. Dougherty says it’s a way for people to talk to people outside of their regular social realm. “Have you ever spoken to a muslim?” he asks, “or to someone from South America?” Maybe you’re curious about muslims or South Americans, but have never had a chance to satisfy that feeling.

Dougherty says, “Many of us spend our lives people watching. We never get a chance to go further than that.” He says it’s for the joy of it.

In this age where technology has shrunken the size of our world, one may ask why we need to talk to someone to find out about South Americans or muslims; we can Google it.

But Dougherty disagrees. Along with technology come alienation; he says, “At this point in history, we need more chances to engage with each other, not less.”

The library has always been a gathering point. What people find when they get there depends on their interests, but Dougherty says that’s a passive relationship —“there’s no way to enter a dialogue.” The Human Library is also driven by the ‘reader’s’ interest, but it’s a connection between two people.

The ‘books’ are all people who now live in the Yukon. Doughtery says that since the Gold Rush, people who come here do so because of an allure this place holds. He says if the reader starts with “Why did you come to the Yukon?” that will lead to at least five minutes of conversation. He says, “Sitting in great windows at the library, watching the river, having a conversation…”

Who knows what you’ll find out?

The Human Library is on Oct. 18 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Whitehorse Public Library. Go to the library in advance to find a list of all ten of the human books, and check out the ones you’re most interested in in advance. To find out about the Human Library around the world, go to

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