Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"It's people. The books are made out of people!" - A Living Library

Have you ever looked at all those books in the library and wondered which one is the least checked out?

Well, David Plouffe, acting executive assistant for the City's Land Use Planning & Policy department, knows first-hand what that book feels like.

***One of these books is human. Can you pick which one?
It all started last year when David saw Living Library advertised with the Calgary Public Library. A cultural planner by trade, he saw this as a great way to engage our communities and get people talking. After researching the concept and discussing it with the librarian, he decided to be a “living book.”

The Living Library works exactly like your local Calgary Public Library – readers can borrow a book.

The difference? Books in the Living Library are human beings where the reader can have a conversation with the book.

As a living book, David had to choose a subject. Being part of Generation X – and one who has been known to get on the bandwagon about this generation – decided to be “Generation X.”
On the day of, David and the other living books sat in an area they call shelves where they wait for readers to sign you out. When a reader signs you out, you sit across a table from them and have a conversation.

“The whole idea is to be completely free and be open to have this dialogue. I find this very invigorating,” said David.

While waiting to be signed out David became intrigued with the other living books.
“I met some fascinating people,” said David. “A person with anorexia, a new immigrant – a doctor driving a taxi, someone who had broken their back and is now disabled, an interesting artist who I am still in touch with – the whole gamut of society was there. I had an incredible time talking to the other books.”

All of the Living Book Volunteers who participated in October’s program will participate again. Examples of other book titles include: Woman in a Wheelchair, Peace Educator, Eating Disorder, and New Canadian from Colombia.

Aside from one reader signing out David earlier in the day, it was getting near the end of the shift before Generation X was “booked out” again.

It was a young guy in his 20s and he started asking David about Generation X.
“He knew more about the pop culture of the generation than I did,” said David. “We had an interesting conversation, but I was curious ‘why’ he booked me out. He told me he asked a staff member what book was the least taken out. And, I was that.

“So that’s been my tag line – the least taken out book. I wear it as a badge of honour.”
David feels the Calgary Public Library is leaders in Canada in the library system with some of these really interesting public programs.

“Living Library was generated in Europe but they’ve grasped it and are really trying to use it as a tool to have those conversations,” said David. “I’m a big supporter of public libraries from the literacy end of things. It’s not all about books anymore; it’s everything from technology to places where you can bring in coffee now.

“They’ve really grasped what community is – Living Library is a very fun and interesting way to do it.”

So will David be a different book this year?

“I thought of becoming a different book because I think people would book me out more,” he said. “But then I would lose my title of ‘The Loneliest book.’”

The Calgary Public Library is currently looking for Living Book Volunteers for its March 2010 programs and beyond.
  • Village Square 1:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday March 6
  • Fish Creek 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday March 13
  • Central 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday March 19
  • Crowfoot 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 21
  • Shawnessy 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday March 27
If you are interested in finding out more or volunteering to become a Living Book, please e-mail livinglibrary@calgarypubliclibrary.com or phone 403-221-2094.

***Living Books at a Living Library event from last year.

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