Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sketching the Human Library and Special Moments

For the fifth year, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) and CBC Ottawa hosted a Human Library event on February 27, 2016 and I decided to spend a couple of hours there and sketch some of the "human books".

The concept: 
"Human ‘Books’ have volunteered to take part in the event with the goal of building tolerance and respect for diversity in our community.
A Reader ‘borrows’ a Book and engages in a one-on-one conversation to gain a better understanding of that person. (Source: OPL)
The OPL 2016 Human Library banner

There were lots of OPL Library staff and CBC staff on hand to help keep things running smoothly. Once you entered the library, you received a brochure with the names of the human books that were available to borrow and a brief biography on their story.

The Human Library kiosk where you sign out your Human Books
The thing that I loved about sketching at the Ottawa Public Library is that there are so many locations to sketch from.

Below, that's me looking down at the Human Library from the second floor. That's where I sketched Chi Way Lee from.

Tweet by @idilmussa of Councillor @TimTierney

In the photo below, I was trying to sketch the "human books" at one of the sessions. When you borrow a human book, there are a number of guidelines you must follow (i.e. be respectful, don't ask for contact infomation etc - common sense guidelines) and you borrow the book for twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes allowed me to do this quick and loose sketch of six of the sixteen human books.

Sketched from the second floor
It was a really great couple of hours of sketching. The folks were so engaged with the human books that they "borrowed". Below is the two page spread I completed after two hours.

My two page spread of my two ours at the OPL-CBC  Human Library

A lovely story:

I have always left the Human Library with a story that touched me and demonstrates why this Human Library movement  (now in 60 countries) is so important. (I recommend you watch the 45-minute documentary which delves into the stories of the human books who participated in the CBC's 2015 Human Library project)

There were 16 human books (see my screen capture at the bottom of this post) at the OPL Main branch and not enough time in two hours to "read them all" or sketch them.

This year, two stories touched me. One of  Chi Way Lee (see sketch above) who found himself homeless following a serious depression after his father's death in Malaysia. He took shelter at the Salvation Army where a chaplain invited him to join an art program which rekindled his lifelong passion for graphic arts. The other was the story of Jay Odjick, an artist who I sketched as he was "borrowed" by a woman and a young boy.

Jay Odjick (bottom sketch) being borrowed by a woman and young boy
My Jay Odjick Story:

For a great video about Jay Odjick by CBC Ottawa, visit
Jay Odjick is a writer and artist from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin Nation in Quebec. Outside of Jay’s work in comics, he has provided illustrations for the works of writers such as Clive Barker and Robert Munsch and created the webcomic Power Hour for director Kevin Smith’s After creating the graphic novel KAGAGI: The Raven, Jay is now the executive producer and lead writer on the animated series Kagagi, which airs on APTN in Canada and FNX in the U.S. (Source OPL:
My story is that I tweeted my sketch of Jay talking to the woman and the young boy (who I referred to as #26). I told Jay that I was assuming that the young boy was a fan of Kagagi. (On APTN at

Jay Odjick's Kagagi on APTN
 Jay's response to my tweet makes this the highlight for me of this year's Human Library

It was my special moment too - thanks Jay!

Below is a screen capture of the 2016 books at the OPL Main branch: Visit to access full descriptions

Screen Capture:

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