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Operation, development, opportunities and challenges of a human library in Taiwan

Fung Mei Wong (National Chengchi University, Taipei City, Taiwan)
Chiao-Min Lin (National Chengchi University, Taipei City, Taiwan)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 2 March 2023

Issue publication date: 28 June 2023

225

Abstract

Purpose

Human libraries are special libraries that give access to real persons known as “human books.” Readers “check out” human books by attending reading sessions organized by the human library. The majority of previous studies focus on reporting the achievement of human libraries, especially on reducing prejudice and promoting social inclusion. There is a dearth of research to investigate how a human library serves and interacts with society. In this regard, this study aims at examining the operation, development, opportunities and challenges of the New Taipei City Human Library (NTCHL), the first and largest human library in Taiwan.

Design/methodology/approach

This study adopts a triangulation methodology to collect and analyze a multitude of data. Participatory observation intends to understand the operation of the NTCHL. In-depth interview is conducted to collect the opinions of the staff of the NTCHL to identify the challenges and opportunities of the human library. Content analysis on relevant documents is performed to review the development and performance of the NTCHL.

Findings

Results indicate that the NTCHL has successfully developed a good collection of human books. The NTCHL not only provides an alternative channel of learning, but also helps build connections between community members. The number of book loans and readers has substantially increased since NTCHL' inception, indicating an increasing demand for human library services in Taiwan. While the NTCHL strives for providing readers with better and diversified services, the issues of limited involvement and commitment of human books, heavy workload and the difficulty to establish a good collection of human books need to be addressed.

Research limitations/implications

This study investigates a human library in Taiwan, but human libraries in different places are different in some aspects because those human libraries' social contexts are different. Future studies are recommended to compare the similarities and differences between different human libraries systematically. Furthermore, this study identifies the benefits of the human library but human library's effectiveness is not quantified and evaluated. Future studies may conduct quantitative assessments to fill the research gap.

Practical implications

Human libraries must strive for providing better and diversified services to readers, but there are implications for workload and administration. The experience of the NTCHL may cast light on the future development of human libraries in Taiwan and other countries around the world.

Social implications

This study shows that the NTCHL has brought a couple of benefits to the society of Taiwan. First, the NTCHL provides readers with an alternative experience of reading. This is an effective way to transmit informal or tacit knowledge. Second, building connections between community members was another benefit of the NTCHL. As modern people are becoming more accustomed to virtual life on the internet which suppresses interpersonal communication, the NTCHL represents an effective platform for communication and sharing of interpersonal experiences.

Originality/value

The novelty of this study is the use of triangulation methodology to investigate the operation, development, opportunities and challenges of the first and largest human library in Taiwan. The findings of this study may cast light on the future development of human libraries in Taiwan and other countries.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the New Taipei City Human Library for providing the necessary logistic support for this study.

Author Contribution: The first author conceptualized the study, collected data, performed data analysis and drafted the manuscript. The second author conceptualized the study and reviewed the manuscript.

Funding: This study did not receive financial support from any funding agencies.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Citation

Wong, F.M. and Lin, C.-M. (2023), "Operation, development, opportunities and challenges of a human library in Taiwan", Library Management, Vol. 44 No. 3/4, pp. 191-202. https://doi.org/10.1108/LM-11-2022-0115

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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