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Human libraries originated in Denmark in 2000, aiming to reduce prejudices and promote tolerance and understanding via dialogue. The "books" of a human library are living people who volunteer to share their stories with "readers." The idea has since spread to more than 45 countries around the world.
Li Xingning, 29, then decided to establish the first human library in Beijing. "My idea of being a 'librarian' is not just to arrange books on the shelves, but also to organize readers to sit together and talk," she said.
To accomplish this, Li took a year off from her job as an architect and spent time locating and decorating her dream library. "The ladder I used to paint the wall is still in the library, now as a decoration," Li said.
The library opened on December 25, 2011 with six "human books."
One of the first "human books" of the Istarsea Library is Yu Shi, a 25-year-old man who quit his job as a technician in an IT company in Beijing and traveled from southwest China's Yunnan Province all the way to Beijing. Yu made a living selling handmade postcards and singing on the street.
"I share my story to encourage more people to go for their dreams," Yu said. "I want to tell them once they go out of their comfort zone, they can find the beauty of life that they've never imagined before."