Why not ‘borrow a person’ at your Halton library? Yes, a person!

PICTURE: Heather from Nightstop interacting with a member of the community at a ‘Borrow a Person’ session at Widnes Library.

You may well have borrowed books, CDs even cassettes from you local library – but you now have the chance to “Borrow a Person”.

This is something that Nightstop Communities is running NightStop Communities Northwest CIC – Home (ncnw.co.uk).

It’s basically a drop-in for people experiencing homelessness or unstable housing issues to get advice.

The library set aside a quiet area in Widnes and Halton Lea Libraries with chairs set up so members of the public can sit down and have a chat with the “Borrow a Person” counsellor.

It is open to anyone who feels like sharing their life narrative and experiences.

The idea for the “Borrow a Person” project originated in Denmark, where it is known as the Human Library project and can be traced back to 2000.

A local music festival was taking place at the time and the participants were asked to borrow a person, thinking of him/her like an open book.

The project was experimental then and was quite successful. Ronni Abergel, the founder says the purpose of the project is not to judge or ask anyone to alter their mindset, they want the readers to make better-informed decisions.

On its website, the Human Library is described as “in the true sense of the word, a library of people. We host events where readers can borrow human beings serving as open books and have conversations, they would not normally have access to.

“Every human book from our bookshelf represents a group in our society that is often subjected to prejudice, stigmatization, or discrimination because of their lifestyle, diagnosis, belief, disability, social status, ethnic origin, etc.”

It was from this viewpoint Nightstop Communities Northwest CIC (NCNW) decided to bring this project to fruition in Halton..

Having a strong community interest and commitment In September 2021 Nightstop approached Katie Ponting who is the Halton Council Area Manager for Widnes Library to enquire if Halton Council would like to work alongside Nightstop in partnership taking the “Borrow a Person” project forward.

Having a Library as a venue to drop in for a tea or coffee and a Nightstop counsellor as the available Borrow a Person to talk with for 30 minutes provides an opportunity for a person to tell their story whilst knowing they are being listened to and heard.

It also provided a safe and friendly environment that was providing the person a gentle introduction into the counselling experience

The partnership success of the initial “Borrow a Person” project at Widnes library was with talks taking place with Runcorn Libraries, the outcome resulted in the “Borrow a Person” project being rolled out within Halton Lea Library.

Julie Griffiths, of Halton Libraries, said: “The partnership between Nightstop Communities Northwest CIC and Halton Borough Council Libraries has reinforced and strenghtened the care and community support provided by the organisations and resulted in people sharing their fascinating and and varied life experiences.”

For more information, call John on 0151 345 6454 or email john@ncnw.co.uk

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