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HomeArtsAjax Living Library brings peoples' stories to life

Ajax Living Library brings peoples’ stories to life

When we think of libraries, we think of books. That’s where we get our stories. Recently, in Ajax people got their stories from different sources: people.

The Living Library is an event by the Ajax Public Library where guest speakers become “books” on loan. Living books are volunteers who want to share their stories to help challenge assumptions, break stereotypes and promote understanding.

People can “borrow” a living book- a real life person- for 20 minutes to hear their story and then engage in a small group talk after.

Laura Rae, lead organizer for the event, was excited by the number of volunteers who wanted to share their stories.

She said it was the first time running the event and they were absolutely blown away by the number of volunteers that wanted to share their stories.

“We’re really thankful,” Rae said. “It’s a very vulnerable position to put yourself into to share that personal narrative with strangers. So, they definitely have more courage than I would.”

The Town of Ajax marketed the event by showing short trailers on YouTube about the living books and about their personal stories.

Maryam Chana was one of the living books. Her story is about finding light through dark times. Chana’s aim in participating is to connect with the listener.

“I’ll start by asking what brought them here, what are the aspects of the write-up or interview that really interests them to sit at my table,” Chana said. “Based on their feedback, I’ll flip through the pages of my story and find what I think relates to their purpose for coming here.”

Summi Siddiqui is a storyteller, educator, artist, poet, writer, musician and motivational speaker. Her story is about her travelling across the world to learn about cultures and societies.

She says she loves the idea of people meeting each other through this event.

“You talk to each other,” Siddiqui says. “People can ask you questions about your life, and I think it’s natural because all of us are human libraries because we all have stories to tell.”

Siddiqui hopes this event can be expanded throughout Durham Region, including Whitby and Oshawa.