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Community Art

Karine Stepanyan: "the Living library was a unique opportunity for the residents of Yerevan"

Interview with Key Dialogue Worker Karine Stepanyan about "Living library" initiative.

On 18th April in Yerevan Key Dialogue Worker and member of KASA Swiss Humanitarian Foundation Karine Stepanyan organized "Living Library" initiative. The event was also part of "Young citizens of Armenia" project. In the open-air library people who have undergone different paths in their life were sharing their stories. 


Previous information about Living Library event


“In all corners of the globe, storytelling is a longstanding tradition with significance that’s lost on no one.  It’s vital to preserving culture.  It speaks of moments of pride.  It speaks of moments of injustice.  It offers an opportunity to learn.  Most importantly, it inspires us to create change for the future.”        

 - Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger


Karine, we would like to ask, how you and your team came up with idea to organize "Living Library" in Yerevan?


The idea of organizing an open-air "Living library" in Yerevan is, first of all, linked with the uniqueness of this initiative and secondly, with the opportunity it gives to people to express, get to know, understand, dialogue and get inspired. We thought there is lack of it in the Armenian society and decided to bring this unique experience into action.


Could you please give some examples who were "the books" in the library?


  • Hovik Keshishian, a Syrian Armenian who was forced to leave Syria because of the conflict. His book was titled "Two homelands, two foreign countries". He was telling about the efforts to stay an Armenian in Syria and about the struggle of being a Syrian in  Armenia.
  • Khdr Hajoyan, a yezidi representative, a minority in Armenia. His book had the following title: "Who are the Yezidis?" Khdr was telling to his readers about the unique culture of Yezidis and breaking stereotypes about a number of traditions existent at Yezidi culture.
  • Anna Unupoghlyan, a woman who had gone through a clinical death. She titled her story as "The girl between two worlds or Life from aside". She was speaking about her experience for the clinical death. Anna was telling that she had started valuing life more after this. Every moment of her life has become of a great value for her.
  • Hiksos Artur, a Gentile who would cost you an effort to meet nowadays. This book enlightened the readers about the Paganism and its peculiarities, the main practices, especially in modern world.
  • Arevik Melkonyan, a disabled youth activist. This book was titled "Disability and society". This bright girl conveyed to the readers her story which was about a struggle against the life and herself, against the mentality and attitude of the society, the stereotypes that do not allow to live a full life, and finally, about victories and achievements.

And who attended the event?


The event was open to everybody with no restrictions. According to Living-library registry there were 112 readers at the Living library which was open 4 hours.

To your opinion, what was the impact of the event?


The Living library was a unique opportunity for the residents of Yerevan to communicate with representatives of the society who are not often to meet. Moreover, these people were both the heroes and the authors of the books they were representing, and this was an innovative way to facilitate this conversation. According to the evaluation questionnaires filled in by the readers the event managed to break many stereotypes, and to bring new energy, new way of thinking and new ideas. The "books" were also happy with both the process and the outcome of the event. Many of the "books" were happy with this opportunity of breaking stereotypes among the people and the ability to enter into dialogue.


Thank you very much for the answers!