DIVERSITY and culture within the Manning Valley is being celebrated and shared this week at Taree Library.
Nine migrants eight of whom are living locally are volunteering their time to speak to members of the public as part of a Living Library, which is just like a regular library but instead of borrowing books, you are borrowing real people with real stories for a half an hour conversation.
The Living Library, which started yesterday and continues today and Friday, is run by the Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services Migrant Settlement Project in conjunction with Greater Taree City Libraries as part of this week's Harmony Day celebrations.
Among the living books are Linguere Bischofberger, who was born in Senegal.
She is sharing experiences from her sailing adventures from the south of France to Australia.
Linguere saw the project as an opportunity to be involved in her community and share her story and had brought along two handwritten books, written in French, in which she had journalised her trip.
Another of the living books is Mudfi Bt Slamet Bali from Central Java who is speaking about her time as a nurse in Kuwait.
"I think it is a good idea to talk with people and share the story," she said.
"As a living book not only can you read it but the book can listen and also answer questions."
Jane O'Dwyer from the Migrant Settlement Program has worked with Danielle Old, Greater Taree City Libraries events coordinator, to bring together the event with the aim of raising awareness of the diversity and culture of people in our area.
"It gives them a chance to make a contribution to their community, " said Jane.
With a growing migrant base, everyone comes with their own stories and their own experiences.
Joining the locals as a 'living book' is Isaac Bacirongo, a Batembo pygmy from the Mafuo chiefdom in the Bunyakiri area of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He most recently gave a presentation at the library for Refugee Week, which was very well received.
He has travelled to Taree from Sydney for the week and has also spoken to a seniors group and the University of the Third Age (U3A).
The 'living books' are a mixture of longer term migrants living in the Manning Valley as well as new arrivals.
"Our books tell of their unique and moving experiences from their home countries including Kenya to Senegal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt, Russia, Congo, India and Austria," said Jane.
Morning and afternoon borrowing sessions are available.
You can phone the library on 6592 5290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation.