Making Knowledge Work

April 29, 2011

Human Library – LIKE 24 being bookish!

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 7:47 pm

One of the many things that make LIKE  events wonderful is that you can turn up after a long day at work feeling weary and a little out of sorts (at LIKE 23 I was ‘going down’ with the pneumonia that kept me in bed for the next fortnight!), or maybe a tad dubious about the issue up for debate (what the heck is Human Library, and why should I care?!) – and in no time at all, you’ll be having a fascinating, illuminating evening.  And you probably won’t want it to end.

In truth, if you’re going to spend a night learning about Human Libraries, there can’t be anyone better to do it with than Linda Constable

Linda’s been working with Human Libraries for five years, and she told us how the Human Library is a forum for making connections, communicating differences and challenging ideas.  These events are best held in comfortable environments, with quiet corners for books and readers to talk – and with a few ground rules agreed:  books and their readers need to maintain a relationship of respect, books can refuse to answer questions they don’t feel comfortable with, they should be’ returned’ in the same condition as they were when’ taken out’ and the period of the loan depends on how many borrowers are waiting their turn.
Human Libraries are often used as a means to help bridge cultural gaps – getting people talking and listening to those they wouldn’t normally come into contact with.

There are a nice couple of sentences on the Human Library website:  “One of the great features of the Human Library and taking out a book, is that there are no such things as stupid questions.  Books have been prepared and made themselves available, in order for you to be able to dig deep and find out what you always wanted to know about the book title.”

Not sure how prepared the LIKE books felt, but Linda made things easy for us by guiding us through the process of writing titles and descriptions on sheets of paper.  These enticing “covers” also acted as booking slips, so readers wishing to explore the subject could book a loan with the book.

There was an impressive range of topics including:
Comics for Adults, Online Gaming, Multicultural Britain, Gardening, Running a Marathon, English Non-conformism, a Guide to Hackney, a Rough Guide to Italy, Flamenco Dancing…..

Linda was adept at pairing readers with books and orchestrating the loans- which was great, as everyone else was so deep in conversation they seemed scarcely aware of time passing.  I got very involved in discussing Knowledge Management with a LIKE member who’d flown down from Edinburgh for the event, and by the time we were joined by another LIKEer, and were delving deeper into ways of making knowledge work, it was almost time for dinner – but it felt as though we’d only sat down to talk a few minutes earlier.

It was good to catch up with others over dinner, and hear about what they’d been “reading”.  And it was interesting to think about the applications of such a format in business environments.  An evening that had started with insights from someone who works a lot in communities – helping people to benefit from sharing their life’s experiences with strangers – ended with discussions about how useful Human Libraries could be as vehicles for business knowledge sharing.

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