People relate parts of their life stories to one another – thus becoming living books. Those who listen will begin to question stereotypes and preconceptions, challenging their own prejudices. Together, the living books become a living library.

ABCittà scs & COOS Marche Co-op

Lombardy, Marche, Trento, Sardinia, Lazio, Apulia – Italy

 

Purpose of the method

To counter prejudices through intercultural animation tools.

Background

COOS Marche is a social cooperative. Among other things, they work to support newly arrived immigrants to establish themselves in Marche and to ease social integration. In order to create meetings between new arrivals and locals, they work with the Living Library concept in collaboration with ABCittà in Milan.

The ABCittà Living Library (ALL) is a specific model inspired by the Danish Human Library. Instead of books, you can borrow living, breathing people who will relate parts of their own life story for the listener. The idea is to challenge stereotypes and prejudices. The Human Library started in Denmark in the early 2000s and the method is now used in over 80 countries. The Human Library is comprised of human books.

In Italy, the idea has been further developed into precise, scientifically grounded 3D:

  1. The Intercultural Dimension (type of prejudice).
  2. The Participatory Dimension (development of the implementation process).
  3. The Functional Dimension ( definition of specific local goals and operational choices).
Living library
Photo: Eva Lindgren
Description of method

Each incarnation of the ALL includes a preparatory phase, of the human books, and a realisation phase, of the human library. Both phases are developed in on site to increase the effect of awareness of the identified topic.

In the initial phase, a local project group is established and activated, tasked with defining the specific problem or issue to be addressed, with an emphasis on which path to choose. The first phase also involves the preparation of the local prejudice map, thereby identifying potential human books. Five practice sessions are then organized with the prospective human books.

In the second phase, the space in which the ALL is to be implemented is identified, planned, created and organized. Consideration is also given to designing, implementing and communicating the event. This phase concludes with an evaluation.

Necessary competences:

  • Pedagogical training for intercultural and social animation to facilitate complex processes.
  • Group leadership.
  • Handling relationships with various territorial socio-pedagogical languages and social communication.
Living library
Photo: Eva Lindgren
Results

The primary target group is the readers of the human books, who will be strongly affected emotionally, challenging prejudices and perceptions of stereotypical appearances. Memories are brought to life and become stories. Preconceptions are reevaluated.

Those who are suited to the role of human book are in the secondary target group.  They will process their own experiences, redefine their identity, overcome shyness or other obstacles to human relationships. Specific competences may be required for this work.

A tertiary target group is the remaining citizens who, even at a distance, observe the preparations, planning and public events. This arouses curiosity, unanswered questions and doubt, but also discussion on specific topics.

Experiences

There are over forty different narrative paths within the ABCittà Living Library. All stories can be found online at www.bibliotecavivente.org and on Facebook.

Study materials
  • Maggi U., Meardi P., Zanelli C. (a cura di), Biblioteca Vivente. Narrazioni fuori e dentro il carcere, Altreconomia edizioni, Milano, 2016.
  • Maggi U, Dodi E. in Annacontini G. e Rodríguez-Illera J. L. (a cura di) La manovra del Gambero, Mimesis, Sesto San Giovanni, 2019.
  • Il modello di Biblioteca Vivente messo a punto da ABCittà è citata come buona prassi della Relazione finale della Commissione “Jo Cox” sull’intolleranza, la xenofobia, il razzismo e i fenomeni di odio della Camera dei Deputati, 2017. http://website-pace.net/documents/19879/3373777/20170825-JoCoxCommission-IT.pdf
Collaboration

All networks are defined through bilateral agreements between ABCittà and local authorities in the various Italian regions. The COOS Marche cooperative has entered into an agreement with ABCittà to use the method in the Marche region.

Resources and funding

Each ABCittà Living Library is financed separately, either through public or private funding, depending on the type of client wishing to utilize the method.

Contact

If you have any questions about the method, please contact COOS Marche.