The Human Library Project

This week on the Cardiff at One show, I spoke to Samanta and Alexandra of the Human Library Cardiff project to find out more about the events which they have been organising here in the city.

Dan: Good afternoon, welcome to the Cardiff at One show. I’m Dan Donnelly. This afternoon we’ve got Samanta and Alexandra from The Human Library Cardiff Project. Samanta, Alexandra, how are you today?

Both: Good thank you.

Dan: What have you been doing then? Tell us about the Human Library Project.

Samanta: We’re here today to make sure people know that it’s happening in Cardiff. Basically, it’s all about not judging a book by its cover so it’s a little bit different from an actual library because the books are people, so you can come and have a conversation one-to-one with a book, aka a person. This person is the one who can choose what their title will be, so something specific that they would like to talk about with people, and it’s all about sharing real stories with real people, and they are 13 minute conversations.

Dan: Brilliant. So what’s the main aim of the project?

Alexandra: The main aim is to create more acceptance, more tolerance and more social cohesion in the community. Basically, the whole concept has the potential for social change. Instead of looking at the differences in the community and thinking that it actually divides us, it could be something that makes us more knowledgable and stronger. So basically, as Samanta said, people in society should judge people less by their covers.

Dan: So judge people less by the differences and look for the similarities.

Samanta: Yes, it’s all about breaking down stereotypes and prejudices in our community.

Dan: I’m all for that. Are you working with any other local community projects or groups at all?

 Alexandra: At the moment we are trying to build more partnerships with social projects and charities, but so far it’s mainly us as a group of volunteers.

Dan: That’s interesting, I’m part of a more image based project called, “Humans of Cardiff“, so maybe we could help each other out with that. What sort of events have you got coming up, you’ve got an event coming up this Saturday is that right?

Samanta: Human Library is pretty much solely based on events. At the moment in Cardiff we are aiming to do three or four in the year. The first one was in February and our next one coming up is this Saturday, 20th May. The event is where you have the chance to come and speak to these books.

Dan: Ok, so you speak to the books?

Samanta: Yes, so basically it’s free for anyone who would like to come and participate. You go on our website,, check out the book titles, whatever you’re interested in, and choose the time slot that you would like. We have some walk-in slots available but you should book in advance to avoid disappointment because of course, we have a limited number of books, and of course because of time. It’s from 12:00 until 4:00pm, so only 4 hours really.

A list of available 'books' at the Human Library event

Dan: It seems like you guys have put a lot of work into this really.

Samanta: Well we try to.

Dan: This isn’t just a Cardiff project is it, it’s international?

Alexandra: Yes, it was developed in Denmark in Copenhagen in 2000, so already 17 years ago, and since then it’s developed and people are organising events all over the world. Now over 70 countries!

Dan: Brilliant, 70 countries!

Alexandra: And now Cardiff is part of it as well.

Dan: That’s pretty extensive. So are you going to keep doing this as long as you can or have you got a set amount of time within which you’d like to particularly see any change, or is this an ongoing thing?

Samanta: It’s definitely ongoing. We’ve started to hopefully make the event bigger and bigger every year. We would like to keep going as long as possible and perhaps build on this initial event that we do every few months.

Dan: What do you need from people, more support or do you need funds?

Samanta: We would definitely like more volunteers, and more books. We’re always very happy to have more and more people involved, and you can find out how to do that on our website. We’re more than happy for people to contact us via any of our social media or via our website to find out more, and to see how you can get involved either as a volunteer or as a book. The more the better!

Dan: Excellent! Well I’ll promote it for you as much as I can, and I’m sure VCS Cymru can help as well. We’ll talk about that more after the show. Whilst we’re still here, can you tell me about any particular stories that have jumped out to you through this project at all?

Samanta: So when we have the event we try to have as much variation as possible, as much diversity as possible. Some previous books we’ve had, for example, have been a Butetown resident talking about the history of the neighbourhood. We’ve had rape victims, people suffering from and overcoming a stammer, former drug and alcohol addicts, someone devoting themselves to doing good deeds and trying to encourage others to do so. So it’s whatever you can think of basically, of course we need to find more books to get involved but we want as many stories to be told as possible.

Dan: It sounds like you’ve got some very real stories coming out of this project.

Thom (see the SWS interview): It sounds very courageous. Dan, what would the title of your book be?

Dan: Ummmmm, Uhhh….”Big, Bearded and Bold”. There you go. Alexandra, were going to say something?

Alexandra: Yes, I wanted to introduce some of the books we will have this Saturday. We will actually have the oldest female skydiver in the world. She’s actually in the Guinness World Record book. She definitely challenges some assumptions you might have about old age.

Dan: How old is she?

Alexandra: 84 I think.

Dan: 84! Jumping into spandex and jumping out of a plane hey!

Alexandra: And a few others for example, someone who was registered as blind and depressed at 26 and wants to share their story.

Dan: That sounds really interesting as well. So it’s this Saturday (20th May) at Cardiff Central Library.

Samanta: It’s from 12 noon until 4pm and it’s on the fourth floor, there should be posters around to direct you.

Dan: So just head into central library and if you don’t see the poster just ask at reception and they’ll know where to direct you.


If you would like to hear the full interview, along with the rest of the show, please follow this link or click the image below to go straight to the Radio Cardiff homepage.

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