No longer will a visit to southern Sweden’s Malmo library be restricted to borrowing conventional items such as videos, educational aids and, of course, books. A homosexual, an Imam, a Muslim woman, a gypsy and a journalist will be among nine people available for members of the public to borrow this weekend. Easy to locate within the Dewey Decimal System, lenders will borrow the human items for a 45 minute chat in the library’s outdoor cafe.
I don’t know if the people who really need it would do it, but this seems like a good method of allowing people to ask questions they would hold back from asking – or that they don’t have an opportunity to ask because they don’t routinely interact with members of the group they have questions about.
For example, I’ve always wondered how people who were blind since birth decide what they would like to wear. What criteria do they use? But my only contact with anyone who is blind consists of seeing him or her on the bus. Not exactly the setting for a question that might be perceived as intrusive, especially since I don’t know from looking at them whether they were blind from birth.
On a more serious note, many “minority” communities have requested that those of us in the dominant social group educate ourselves, rather than continually expecting them to point out the problems. But in this situation, members of these communities have officially made themselves available to help. So you can stop asking your one African-American friend to explain it all to you, and instead get yourself down to the local library. This one person can’t represent everyone in the group, obviously, but it makes a designated space where you know you’re not badgering someone by asking them questions.
Well done, librarians of Malmo!