Human Library helps humanize stories, topics

By Kaylee Lindenmuth
News Editor

Rohrbach Library lent out a different sort of resource than its usual fare of printed materials, cameras and laptops on March 28. For the second time since 2017, it lent out people – members of the community with unique experiences through a wide range of challenges. The library considered them “human books” as a part of their Human Library event.

“The Human Library is an international project. It happens all around the world. This is our second year having it here at Kutztown,” said Jerry Schearer, associate dean for Inclusion and Outreach, who assisted in organizing the event. “The idea is to allow readers, rather than checking out a book on a topic, to talk to someone who is that topic.”

Twelve members of the KU community agreed to be “books” for the event, sharing their stories through 20-minute conversations with “readers.”

“The idea is that maybe I’ve never talked to someone with autism before, for example. I could come here, and I’d check out the ‘book’ [on autism] and have a 20- to 30-minute conversation with whatever questions I have,” Schearer said.

Experiences covered by the participating “books” included blindness, autism, trauma, social issues, veganism and more specific situations, such as a move from Morocco to Pennsylvania and a woman’s service in the Marines.

“We all have different stories, but we’re all human,” said Schearer, summarizing the event.

The event was “steadily busy,” said Schearer, noting each “book” was checked out multiple times.

“I think the response is good. I haven’t seen anyone leave like ‘This is a waste of time,’” added Schearer. “As far as the readers go, they’ve gotten something out of it.”

Julia Laudadio, a junior social work major, participated in the event as a “book,” sharing her experiences with traumatic events throughout her childhood.

“I think [the event] helps develop empathy and gives people an opportunity to tell their story and embrace vulnerability and for other people to learn more about others and people on campus that they really don’t think to interact with,” said Laudadio regarding why the event interested her.

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Photo courtesy of Kaylee Lindenmuth, The Keystone — Peyton Williams, a junior music education major, shares her story with Karen Wanamaker, education librarian.

Laudadio participated in the first iteration of the Human Library at KU in November 2017 and was among a handful of “books” who returned. Her story focused on how she reclaimed her life from traumatic experiences to be “joyful, healthy and successful,” as her entry in the event’s catalog described it.

Photo by Kaylee Lindenmuth, The Keystone — Peyton Williams, a junior music education major, shares her story as a “book” in KU’s Human Library.

Speaking of the event’s impact on the campus community, Laudadio said, “One of the things that I really want people to get out of [the event] is, from my story specifically, ‘that which we do not know about ourselves are limits, and when we are honest with ourselves, and when we work to know everything about ourselves, it becomes parameters,’” said Laudadio. “It’s essentially, don’t be afraid to delve into that. It takes a lot of strength to live with trauma… and if you can get to a place where you can reclaim it, don’t be afraid of it, because this is your life, you have control over it.”

Laudadio added she hopes “all of the readers walk away from [the event] with a little more love, a little more empathy, and a little more softness.” Additionally, she emphasized the importance of hearing other’s stories and to humanize.

“Having the opportunity to hear a stranger open up about things, it shows how we all can relate to each other,” Laudadio said.


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