Paul Gorbould via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Paul Gorbould via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This Library Lets You Check Out People Instead of Books

Paul Gorbould via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Paul Gorbould via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

At this type of library there are no late fees, and the selection isn’t arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. That’s because all the stories here are delivered first-hand by a living, breathing human being.

The “Human Library” originated in Denmark in the year 2000 as part of a youth organization called “Stop the Violence.” The idea is straightforward: library guests can choose which volunteer they’d like to “check out” based on titles the human books assign themselves. Past titles have included “Olympic Athlete,” “Biking Agoraphobic,” “Fat Woman,” and “A Questioning Christian.” Visitors then sit down with their books for half an hour or so to listen to them share their personal stories.

The University of Essex via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The project is meant to combat prejudice by giving people a chance to connect with someone they may have never had a chance to speak with otherwise. No two accounts are exactly alike, and guests have the unique opportunity to ask questions and interact with the stories as they listen to them.

The Denmark experiment has since expanded into a worldwide project, with human libraries making appearances in fifty countries on five continents. Some places like Tasmania and South Korea have even established permanent human libraries for the public to enjoy.

To check for human libraries coming to your neighborhood, visit the the Human Library Organization’s Facebook page.

[h/t: Roadtrippers]

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
iStock
iStock

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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