Inside San Diego

Stories about City Services, Employees, Residents and Communities

Real Stories from the Human Library

Human Library Project

Ever wondered about someone else’s story?

The San Diego Public Library hosted the city’s first Human Library on Saturday, March 11 hoping to educate and inspire the public through positive conversations with actual people.

“Libraries are a place for learning, whether it’s from words on a page or through a person sharing their experience,” said Library Director Misty Jones. “We strive to foster a safe and engaging environment for open dialogue.”

During the four hour event at the Central Library in downtown, members of the public or “borrowers” were able to check out human “books” – people representing different groups in our communities. Borrowers could reserve their selections for 20-minute conversations.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Fourteen human “books” participated in the Human Library, including Alex Montoya who was born without two arms and one leg. He is a motivational speaker who recently wrote a book about his life. He credits the library with providing him the space and support to complete his autobiography.

“I hope people leave here really feeling educated, really feeling like they got a perspective on someone else’s life that they otherwise would not have,” said Montoya.

The human “book” list also included a suicide-attempt survivor, a transgender person, a Muslim, an online journalist, a domestic violence victim, an anarchist, a person who is blind, and a domestic violence survivor. All of the titles participating in the Human Library volunteered their time to share their stories. A library card was not required to participate.

Organizers hope the city’s program will foster mutual respect and understanding among residents and visitors of San Diego.

“Everybody has a story to tell, and just like a book, we shouldn’t judge somebody by their ‘cover’ – we must get to know them, empathize and understand their point of view. This is the key to a city that is socially cohesive and resilient to hate,” said Dr. Joel Day, Executive Director of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission.

Human Library is an international movement aimed at challenging stereotypes and prejudices in cities across the world. The project started created in Denmark in 2000 as part of an anti-violence movement. For more information, visit