Keene State College students challenged stereotypes and biased opinions through meaningful conversations and interactions at The Mason Library and The Office of Multicultural Student Support’s first Human Library event on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 13 and 14.
The Human Library is an international organization that began in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000. People are offered the option of reserving a “human book” for a 20 to 25 minute conversation.
The “books” explain their story, as the “reader” is allowed to ask them questions about their life experiences.
The event strives to create positive interactions that confront prejudices and stereotypes, according to the Human Library Organization website.
KSC’s event offered the readers a choice of nine human books. A summary of the human book’s stories were presented at the library’s front desk.
Students could select the human book they desired to speak with and a time slot was reserved for their conversation.
The human books consisted of KSC faculty, students and staff, as well as a couple of members from the local community, Diversity and Multiculturalism Student Support, Hunter Kirschner said.
The event was advertised in multiple places in the fall, when interested people applied to become human books.
Kirschner continued by explaining his past experience with the Human Library and how he believed it would benefit the KSC.
“We’re always trying to think about new and interesting things to bring to campus. I participated in a Human Library at my previous institution… I thought it was a neat way to have one-on-one conversations about a personal experience or an identity with somebody who doesn’t have those experiences or identity,” he said.
This event stressed the importance of conversation when making meaningful connections with different people, Kirschner added.
“When you’re talking to an actual person, of course, you get a lot more depth and texture… and so hearing an actual narrative or story, rather than the flatness of an identity… helps people think critically and challenge those assumptions that we make about other people,” he said.
Mason Library’s Dean Celia Rabinowitz explained how people have certain presumptions or beliefs about different experiences and the Human Library enables students to have a deeper comprehension of people with unique lives.
“We think we know about how homelessness or addiction, or anything else really, affects a person. But we really only know that from what we hear or see, not necessarily from people we know. Even a 20 minute conversation, in some ways, can get you to think a little bit about an issue in a way you haven’t thought about it before,” she said.
She continued by comparing the Human Library to a real library, saying that both have the potential to change the ways in which people think about a certain subject.
“Anybody who walks into a library can interact with the people, and the books, and the computers in ways that will be different for each person but have this real potential to transform them in what they choose, what they read, what they look at. So, I think of the Human Library the same way. I think that every person you sit down and talk with can transform you in the way that a book might,” she explained.
KSC sophomore Matthew Sena said he attended the event for one of his classes and believed the experience gave him knowledge about an identity he was unfamiliar with.
“I mean, the whole experience was just really eye-opening. Sometimes I feel like I’m really quick to judge people but after coming to this event, I realized I need to change that,” he said.
The human books remained anonymous and the conversations shared were asked to be kept private, therefore, no human books were contacted for an interview.
Both Rabinowitz and Kirschner agreed they intend to sponsor the event next year.
Students, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to apply to become human books in the fall.
Applications will be available on MyKSC, class Facebook pages and through email.
Ashley Arnold can be contacted at email@example.com