Living Book Day – Review by Flor Trillo

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As part of the 650th Anniversary of the University of Vienna, the “Living Book Day” took place on 29 April, in collaboration with the career service [UNIPORT] and the Main Library that are both part of the University of Vienna.

The event was characterised by the presence of 65 renowned people including students or academics of the University. The groups of the so-called living books are related to different areas of the University. A list with this information is made available in advance to the interested audience. These valuable living books comprise the director of a museum who will talk about art or history, the head of an insurance company or a football coach. This event also scores with the presence of five people via Skype showing the new concept of e-books. They shared their experiences from countries such as Belgium, Brazil, Spain and the United States of America.

 

One challenge consisted in the available time of only 25 minutes in which the living books had to share their academic and professional ideas and experiences that will help guide the university students.

There are the following rules for the Living Book Day:

  • Respect and courtesy: respectful questions, listening with interest and an open mind.
  • Topics of discussion: only about the event, professional experiences and stories of the living book, always protecting his/her privacy.
  • End call: always respect the gong call that indicates the end of the consultation.
  • Start and end on time: collaboration of organisers, collaborators and readers to finish within the time agreed.
Living Book Day Organizing Committee

The rules and procedures explained by the organising committee

The event lasted for four hours (16:00-20:00).

The proceeding consists in arriving one hour prior to the registration and in requesting a book loan. At the registration desk you receive a card indicating the time and place for meeting the living book. The library hall has numbered spaces and every 25 minutes the gong call indicates that the consultation has ended and a new consultation is ready for the next group of readers.

Living Book Day Gong

A member of the organising committee strikes the gong to call the end of the consultation every 25 minutes.

 

Here you can watch a video that explains how this event looked like two years ago.

 

The organising committee provides a map of the lecture hall with the location of the 65 living books. Then the reader must fill in and submit a form to be able to check a blackboard with the schedules to meet the living book. The information package given contains a questionnaire with eleven questions that the reader has to submit at the end of the event.

Registration form at the counter

Registration form at the counter

The experience that I chose was option 65 of the living books with the author Gerald Zachar, who works at Paul und Collegen Consulting GmbH. The title of the living book was “The disenchantment of the world” [Die Entzauberung der Welt]. Mr. Zahar studied comparative literature at the University of Vienna, then history and social anthropology in France. Later Mr. Zahar worked as professor at the University of Vienna and collaborated with the British Library. Currently, Mr. Zahar is consultant in an Austrian company that provides consultancy services to companies to achieve profitable growth.

Gerald Zachar, Living Book

Gerald Zachar, Living Book

 

In 25 minutes, this living book explained his academic and professional trajectory while sharing his experiences, points of view regarding university education and the challenges and troubles he had in the last two decades. I can say that the time in the hall passed by so quickly and I found myself surrounded by other living books. Across the hall I saw a long queue of people waiting for their turn. Suddenly the gong sounded announcing the end of the consultation.

I believe that this experience for the students and readers is superb as they can be guided and motivated to help them with their personal and professional growth. The entrance to this event was free and the organising committee and staff were well-mannered and had the good work spirit that helped to organise the event with a marvellous synchronicity.

Main Reading Room, full of readers and living books

Main Reading Room, full of readers and living books

Livingbooks is an initiative that is copied in the whole country. It is part of the international network humanlibrary.org. It promotes a playful dialogue to integrate and promote social diversity, build community work and combat prejudice and stereotypes through development in libraries.

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