5 March 2019
The Kraemer Family Library is adding a few new and unique books to their collection — a collection of books written on humans.
The Human Library is a place where real people act as “books” to readers so that they may engage in conversations that challenge stereotypes through respectful dialogue.
Lisa Steck-Gillen, cataloging assistant and library technician, is organizing the event on campus.
“The event is happening because of the Diversity Team here at Kraemer Library. Dean Martin Garner had seen the event somewhere else and brought it to the Diversity Team,” said Steck-Gillen. “We want to make sure the library is accessible and inviting so we spend a lot of time putting on events that represent broad perspectives.”
According to the Human Library Organization website, the Human Library is a place where difficult answers are appreciated and answered.
Human Library events have been previously held at CU Boulder and at the Pikes Peak Library District.
According to Steck-Gillen, the Human Library event will give students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members the opportunity to put a human face to an assumption.
“We have a tendency to assume things about one another. The Human Library provides people with the chance to have a one-on-one, civil conversation and break these prejudices we hold,” said Steck-Gillen.
Students who have volunteered to be “books” will be sharing their unique stories of hardship, challenge and triumphs in short 25-30-minute conversations.
Some examples of “books” include people with ADHD, are deaf/blind or who have been sexually abused.
The event puts a whole new meaning on the message, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“Every book is a little bit different just like every book in our library is different,” said Steck-Gillen. “I have a student [participating] who is autistic and he really wants to talk about how to make friends with people who have autism.”
Steck-Gillen believes that these conversations take a lot of bravery as students are taking something very serious. If students need to decompress, there will be safe spaces available to them.
“We are trying to make sure that students feel comfortable sharing their stories and at any point, if any of it becomes too personal, they can step out,” she said.
The event also creates special connections among students that otherwise might not have been made.
“In the instance of the student with autism, for him to be able to connect with his peers is a really great thing,” said Steck-Gillen. “Hopefully these types of conversations and connections are happening outside of this event so that a person really would be more willing to sit down and have a cup of coffee and chat with someone.”
To participate, “books” had to complete an application, be interviewed and undergo training prior to the event.
“At the training sessions, they came up with a title that is clear. They also came up with a bit of script,” explained Steck-Gillen. “Some may stick to reading it, others may feel totally comfortable jumping right into a conversation.”
The event attracted the interests of many potential “books” and interviews were necessary both to determine who would be available and who would be emotionally prepared to have potentially personal conversations. Training was similar in that it taught “books” how to guide their conversations with “readers.”
“I’m not done with interviews yet, but so far we will have six ‘books’ on the first day and four books on the second. Each ‘book’ will be doing three readings a piece. I would like to have a minimum of five ‘books’ sharing their stories each day,” said Steck-Gillen.
The event is open to the public and students are especially encouraged to attend.
“I’m considering putting something out before the event, once I know for certain which ‘books’ are definitely in, for students to make reservations,” Steck-Gillen explained. “I want at least one walk-in for each session, for each ‘book.’”
The two-day event will be on March 13 and 14 from 1:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. in the library near the front entrance. They will have a table set up for students to look through their catalog of “books.”
“It’s just another example of the heart of UCCS and the Kraemer Family Library,” said Steck-Gillen. “We are not only just a place you can access a database or textbook. I hope this will create a space where everyone feels they can tell their story.”
The concept of the Human Library was developed in Copenhagen in 2000. A non-governmental youth movement called “Stop the Violence” created the event to focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and help to build positive relations among peers.