Prior to what is generally considered the first book ever written (or discovered so far), “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which was chiseled into a clay tablet nearly 3,000 years ago, knowledge was passed from generation to generation using the oral tradition.
That oral tradition of moving information and knowledge forward continues today with a new program offered by the Ashe County Public Library called “The Human Library.”
“It gives people a chance to visit with someone they may not usually talk too,” said ACPL Librarian Suzanne Moore when describing the new program.
Essentially, the program works like this. Anyone can “check out a book” that is an individual who has a particular area of expertise or story to tell. The “books” are available for “check out” from 1-3 p.m. during select days in the coffee bar in the library.
She said the concept of the Human Library was developed in Europe and Canada with the goal of promoting tolerance and acceptance of other cultures and lifestyles.
Moore added that she also saw a correlation between the Human Library and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury's novel “Fahrenheit 451,” in which common people memorized books (carried them in their heads) and provided the information in them after the fictionalized government banned, and burned, all books in an effort to suppress dissenting ideas.
The pilot program for the Human Library was held during National Library Week in April, said Moore.
The first of two “books” available for check out as the pilot program began was Lissa Brown, who wrote a book called “The Other “F” Word.” Brown was available for check out to discuss the negative impacts of bullying and efforts to stop bullying in our schools and society in general.
The other “book” available was Kilby Spencer, who is not only the library's regional technology coordinator, but also a well-known fiddler and a member of the Crooked Road Ramblers, a bluegrass music group.
Spencer's “Music is in the blood” book was a talk on how old time music is passed from one generation to another.
After the success of the pilot project in the library, said Moore, the Human Library was opened for check outs during the Ashe County Arts Council's first Gallery Crawl of the summer in June.
Eighty-two books were checked out during the June crawl.
Available for check out during the crawl were Kelly Halsey, who is currently playing the role of “Annie” in the Ashe Little Theatre production of “Annie.” Her book was about child acting.
Melissa Caudill, a marathoner and cancer survivor, offered a book about her passion for running and what she learned battling cancer.
Jason English, discussed his book, the “New Face of Church Leadership” and the “Free People Free People” effort, which is a nonprofit organization that operates under the assumption that people who are free have an obligation to rescue others from slavery and oppression.
And, Michael Goss, a published writer and tournament poker player, offered a book on the history of poker.
Other books already available for checkout cover topics on aviation and woodworking, the greenhouse effect and climate change, solar energy, genealogy, the art of yo-yoing, and bee keeping.
But, Moore said, more books are needed and becoming a book is as simple as contacting the library.
“Let us catalogue you and maybe you'll become a best seller,” said Moore.
For more information about the upcoming dates or making your “book” available for “check out” from the Human Library, visit www.ashelibrary.com or call 336-846-2041.