Medium and message: CSV and Rethink

CSV and Rethink's 'human library' aims to challenge stigma and appeal to a wide range of people.

Two charities have teamed up to create a 'human library' to tackle prejudice and stigma.

The 'books' in the library are real people who are often the subjects of prejudice, and include a transgender person, a police officer, an autistic gay man, a 'hoodie' and someone suffering from schizoaffective disorder. Readers can borrow the 'books' for 30 minutes to talk to them and hear their stories.

Mental health charity Rethink and volunteering charity CSV created the library to challenge stigma and encourage people to get involved in their communities.

Rosanna Wynn-Williams, a volunteer for CSV and co-organiser of the project, said the library allowed people to tell their stories directly and would attract people who might not want to read or watch films because of the limited length of the sessions.

"The challenge is to make sure there is a wide range of 'books' and that both books and readers understand the rules," she said. "Readers must return the book in the same mental and physical state they found it in, and the books must understand that if the conversation gets out of hand or the reader hasn't entered into the right spirit they can end the conversation."

The first two library sessions were run earlier this month in Norwich, with another planned later in the month in Great Yarmouth. About 100 readers came to the first event, at which there were eight 'books'.

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