As the first living library in Beijing, Xingchenhai living library hides itself in a building in Wudaokou. Though the living library is called a “library”, it is not about books, but about stories of people of different walks of life. The “readers” here have the same belief: everyone is a book.
Every Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. is the time to share “living books”. The activity is presented in a normal book bar, with a little space separated by a curtain. There is no special stage, but 10 chairs in front of the talker and presenter. The founder Xing Ning says the library has been set up for three years, and there are nearly 20 “readers” coming to the event each times.
This time, it is a young play writer named Qin Fei who is sharing her stories. The library sets a theme for her this time, and let her introduce how to inject feelings into the play. Under the guidance of the presenter, Qin talked on and on for two hours. It is all about things that happen during writing a play, the moments when inspiration comes suddenly, or lucky chances of job-hopping. All of these are spoken out loud with the spirit of sharing with each other. Although the talk deviated from the subject for some time, people still listen with rapt attention.
Among these “readers”, many of them are members, but majority of them come here for admiration. These “readers” will have interaction with the talker in the middle of the stories. In Qin’s case, some people asked her about writing skill, and some asked her whether she would feel lonely when writing plays. Even the private issues like relationship status were brought up for joking. People’s feelings got more connected in this process of sharing.
After having this precious experience of “living book”, Qin feels that the “living library” is actually a story sharing meeting. “Here people can tell their own stories to strangers, they might be interested in what I do or the field I am in, you don’t know if one of them could end up as my peer work partner.” Qin admits that she is not really a talker, but she has a great time talking to strangers through this event.
Cui Lin is a regular “reader” to this library, and has “read the living book” for four times. “Listening to other people’s stories is an unusual experience in daily life,” Cui comments. She even met some nice friends in this library who share the same sense of humor. Every time people ask strange questions, they would always have this tacit smile at each other.
“To let strangers in life meet in the library, to see a world in multi-diversion and to meet oneself in the future, this is the reason I set up this living library, and to reflect the value of this activity,” the founder said.
Living library is a virtual concept. It invites people to come together, to communicate face to face, in order to complete the "reading." In this process, people get to understand and appreciate more in life through others’ stories.
The event was first “born” in 2005 in Denmark. Shanghai Jiaotong University did first attempt in the "living library" event in 2009.