Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Living Libraries

Some libraries have been doing programs called, "Living Libraries," where people can "check out" a person who is an expert in a particular way of life. They have 30 minutes to learn about being a vegan or a Buddist or whatever.

It was designed to address prejudice and I can see it as a fascinating way to do that, but I think it could be expanded into other arenas too. It seems like it would be very interesting to be able to have 30 minutes of conversation with someone about anything from antique linens to big game hunting.

One of the things I always loved about interviewing people was what I called, "dropping into people's lives" for a short while. I learned that someone who was passionate about something could generally make me appreciate it. I'm not likely to take up ice fishing, but I'll bet there are some interesting things to know about it.

Once you start talking to people in your community, you're amazed at how many of them are fascinating. Within an hour's drive of where I live is a man who was a pivotal figure in reforming mental health care in this nation. He was a young attorney who took on a case no one else would touch that ended up going to the supreme court. That case also catapulted a young reporter named Geraldo Rivera onto the national scene.

Living here is a man who is considered the world's best crow hunter, a former Radio City Rockette, and members of a family who were held hostage during an international hijacking. There are many other examples of interesting stories waiting to be told - people who have had extraordinary experiences or jobs or honors. Ultimately, many, many people you cross paths with have great stories to tell and are leading extraordinary lives. That's really what it boils down to - interesting stories from extraordinary lives - they so often go untold.

There's a story about Living Libraries in Santa Monica. It seems like a great way to get to know folks in your community.

I'm thinking about library programs because next week I'm going to be involved in three of them - two as an "instructor" and one as a participant. I was asked some time ago if I would come to some classes at the library and talk about blogging. It will be interesting to meet the folks taking the class. I'm not sure what I can tell people about blogging, but I'm sure I'll think of something between now and then. I guess, in a way, I'm going to be the living library entry for that short while.

Later next week I'll be participating in a library book discussion about Bailey White's "Mama makes up her mind and other dangers of Southern Living." It's a very quick read and a fun book. I listened to Bailey White on NPR for years, so I was eager to read this book and discuss it with others. I'm also reading "War of Art" by Steven Pressfield, which I heartily recommend. I need to just buy a copy of it because I can tell it's a book you want to highlight as you read.

I'm going to think more about this idea of Living Libraries. I think there's something important there to work with. I'm always looking for ways to build social capital in my community and this sounds like a great way.
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