The Power of One on One: Human Libraries and the challenges of antiracism work

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This monograph is the first comprehensive and independent analysis of Human Libraries (formerly Living Libraries) in Australia. ‘Human Libraries’ refers to an innovative social inclusion community initiative developed in Europe that is increasingly being adopted by public libraries across Australia, and some community groups and government agencies. The monograph provides an overview of Human Library practices and identifies key challenges for policymakers and practitioners. It also contributes to scholarly debates on anti-racism work and on the benefits and limits of cross-cultural contact or dialogue within that work. The monograph documents the aims, history and key practices of Human Libraries in Australia, and provides discussion points for people involved. The emergence and development of Human Libraries is analysed with reference to ‘contact theory’ and the aim of addressing prejudice. The monograph also discusses the politics and ethics of comfort and safety negotiated in cross-cultural storytelling. While the research finds a strong ‘buzz’ and widespread enthusiasm for the Human Libraries project, the authors also suggest a need for critical reflection on key questions about the strategy and its implementation.
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