The new $36-million central library in Surrey, B.C. is shaking things up with a selection of volunteer "living books" who'll be loaned out to hold conversations with visitors.

Librarian Ravi Basi, one of the coordinators of the "human library" program, says the idea originated in Denmark decades ago and has since spread throughout the world.

"The original concept was to break down barriers, dispel myths and shatter stereotypes," Basi said. "You could speak to somebody who is of a certain religion, for example; there are so many misconceptions about different religions. It could be someone with a mental illness."

Surrey's human library, which is expected to open before the end of the year, will expand the concept to include a host of local experts whose experiences could be enlightening to the public.

Though the roster is still being determined, Basi suggested living books could include a painter, war veteran or astronomer.

Members of the public will be able to have one-on-one conversations for 30 to 45 minutes with them in the library itself or one of the facility's coffee shops.

"You can ask about everything that you've ever wanted to know," Basi said.

The launch date and availability of living books are still being determined.

Basi says new library functions and programs are especially important in the age of e-readers.

"The notion of what a library is changes all the time," she said. "It's not just a historic house of books anymore, and I think this program demonstrates that."

The new 77,000-square-foot LEED certified library, built by Bing Thom Architects, will also feature a computer learning centre, gaming area, meeting spaces and wi-fi access.

The grand opening of the Surrey City Centre Library, located at 10350 University Drive, is expected toward the end of September.