In today’s day and age, accessing information is easier than ever. Information is ubiquitous, as are the sources. We have become so accustomed to just googling something and briefly scanning it. With that, it is easy to forget that at some point this information came from someone who either researched this on their own or lived it. What the Human Library does is break that boundary, and encourages learning via conversation and human interaction. It is a free event that is open to the public as well, with a wide range of topics you can choose from, there is something for everyone. The experience of attending a “Human Book” is unique, not only are you learning about someone’s story, but you can ask them questions directly, and receive information directly from the source. Not to mention, you can even cite a human book if you wish to incorporate what you have learned into school-work.

This is my third year attending the Human Library, and the first time I’ve had the opportunity to document my experience going as a student. In order to gain further insight, I spoke with Kara Blizzard, a Reference Librarian here at Augustana, who graciously helped provide information on the Human Library. It began in 2000, in Copenhagen, where the goal was to reduce prejudice and discrimination; improving understanding and tolerance by having conversations based on people’s unique, challenging, and/or stigmatized life experiences.  

It was in 2009 when the Human Library made its debut at Augustana, with the hopes of also fostering empathy and encouraging conversations that may be difficult to have, or rather, are not being had. You have the opportunity to share a safe space with a small group of people, and engage in a judgement-free, thought-provoking discussion.

I attended two human books, each showcasing just how diverse the topics can be. The first was about how Augustana came to be, titled “If these walls could talk.” From its beginnings as a private religious institute, known as Camrose Lutheran College, to the place we know now, I learned about the beginnings of some of the programs and classes we are able to enroll in now, as well as the trials and tribulations that were faced in decades past. The next Human Book I listened to was “Hopeful non-believer,” where I had the chance to learn about atheism, from the point of view of someone who grew up in a religious community, as well as how sometimes the term “atheism” can be associated with negativity, even though it is not a negative thing. It helped broaden my understanding and way of perceiving the touchy subject that is religion. I look forward to the opportunity of being able to attend more human books.

As people, we tend to gravitate to things we are familiar with, or are within our comfort zone. It is important that we engage with opportunities to attend events such as these to broaden our understanding and appreciate other people’s points of view. Fostering communication is the key to creating an inclusive environment where we can all be our best selves. I highly recommend for everyone to drop by and listen to a Human Book. The next Augustana Human Library will be held in February of 2020.

(Originally published November 6, 2019)

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