Open books, open minds

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This is London, in Edinburgh the living books wore black T shirts

Multicultural Leith produced some of the best read books on offer at Scotland’s first Living Library. We don’t yet have any pictures of the event which was probably the highlight of the Edinburgh Festival of Libraries, but these excellent images from the Living Library website give you some idea of the atmosphere. What’s a living book? Read on!

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The poster for a Living Library in Lisbon

We didn’t really know [writes Fay Young] what we were letting ourselves in for when we attended the briefing session in McDonald Road Library. The Living Library brings ‘books’ (real people with a story to tell) face to face with ‘borrowers’ (real people with questions to ask). We found out the following day when volunteers from Leith (among them Asia, a librarian from Poland, Alice a community worker from Zimbabwe, and Shaista a poet from Dubai) joined the extraordinary mix of living books in a crowded corner of Adam House buzzing with conversation. It was a fantastic experience!

For three hours people lined up to borrow ‘books’ from every walk of life and almost every corner of the earth. From where Ill-slovenia-may-2007-01.jpg was sitting (as a ‘living blogger’) I saw Sikh turbans, Muslim scarfs and big Goth boots. There was Simon Daley, a community policeman in Leith, and Shaheen Unis, one of Edinburgh’s most successful businesswomen (and Leith Open Space supporter). Each woman and man with a unique story to tell; all of us united in black T shirts with BOOK: BORROW ME in bold white lettering.

“I didn’t realise Edinburgh had so many different communities,” said Linda Constable, a Living Library adviser, as she handed out the black T shirts she had just brought with her from a previous Living Library event in England. In her introductory talk to volunteers she described the experience of meeting people from different backgrounds: “Like a light going on.”

The aim of the Living Library is to overcome prejudice, break down barriers, and broaden understanding between people. And Edinburgh’s first event certainly brought people together. According to Ewan McCormick, the Edinburgh Living Library organiser, there were at least 45 book loans during the day (and some were group sessions so many more people were involved).

The last word goes to Ronni Abergel, the man who started it all off at a music festival in Denmark eight years ago as a campaign against violence. After Saturday’s event he sent Ewan a text complimenting Edinburgh on the first event, “You can be proud of your efforts to get Scotland off the ground.”
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A living book in Berlin

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