I.D. Weeks library is looking for volunteers who would like to share their stories of overcoming obstacles for next fall’s Human Library.
The Human Library is an event in which people describe aspects of their lives that may be frequently misunderstood, or lead people to quick judgments. The purpose is to foster better understanding about people with differences and to give a human face to things people haven’t experienced in their own lives.
Having a real person explain what their life is like can be helpful for those that have misconceptions about different religions or sexuality, for example. Caroline Anderberg, a librarian at I.D. Weeks who’s organizing the event, said having a face-to-face conversation makes a big difference.
“It’s a way to challenge stereotypes,” Anderberg said.
The one-time event is scheduled Oct. 18 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the library, and anyone who wants to come is welcome. Each “book” can be “borrowed” for a 20-minute conversation to learn about the person.
Started in Cophenhagen, Denmark in 2000, Human Libraries have gradually caught on in the United States.
“This is going to be open to campus and the wider community,” Anderberg said.
There should be a fairly wide variety of “books” at the Human Library, which will cover a broad assortment of topics, Anderberg said.
“A couple of examples of ‘books’ that we are probably going to have is, a parent who has a child in the criminal justice system, someone else who is a high school dropout, a recovering addict and now is earning advanced degrees, LGBTQA, interfaith marriage,” Anderberg said. “So as much diversity as we can find for our ‘books,’ who are volunteers.”
There’s still time for people that might consider participating in the Human Library to get involved.
“At this point we’re still interviewing ‘books,’ and the application process is still open,” Anderberg said. “We’re hoping to have at least a dozen.”
The application process, Anderberg said, will remain open for a few more weeks to give people time to learn about the project and sign up.
The Office of Diversity, the Center for Disabilities and TRIO Student Support Services have all worked with Anderberg on the Human Library project.
Lucas Lund, a sophomore Spanish and international studies major and a member of the library committee, said the concept of a Human Library was new to him when he first heard about it.
“I think it’s really cool, I hadn’t ever heard of anything like this before, and so I think it’s definitely very interesting,” Lund said.
Lamont Sellers, associate vice president for diversity at USD, was consulted by Anderberg to help recruit students in the Center for Diversity and Community for the event and to get his input.
Sellers said because the concept of the Human Library is so new to campus, people have been hesitant to participate.
“I think that this first time around, it really is introducing it to our campus community,” Sellers said. “So everybody is like, ‘What is it, and what does it involve, what does it entail?’ It’s a huge question in people’s minds.”
The unfamiliarity of the entire concept, Sellers said, is the main barrier standing between people that might participate but haven’t yet signed up. Many people are willing to tell their personal stories in events like this, he said.
“People are much more readily available and much more open to sharing about themselves,” Sellers said. “And I’ve been surprised at the number of people that are very willing to share about themselves.”