Curious check out ‘Human Library’

The Honors Program at the University of the Incarnate Word hosted its second annual Human Library event Wednesday, Feb. 7, in J.E. and L.E. Mabee Library.

The event challenged students to not judge a book by its cover as they talked with individuals who represented topics such as anorexia nervosa, activism, addiction recovery, chronic pain, depression, feminism, journalism, music, pacifism, what it means to be transgender, and the Muslim faith.

“With a [regular] book there is a topic and you kind of go in with a lot of questions, and you get to read and learn about it,” Human Library event chair Sophia Gilmour, a junior, said. “But these people are serving as books on topics they have a lot of knowledge on. So you get to sit down with each of them individually and just ask them questions.”

The Honors Program recruits people as “books” by asking people in the community to speak personally on behalf of a topic through their knowledge and experiences.

“These ‘books’ represent their personal experience with these topics,” Honors Program Director Jean Loden said. “It is not that they are academically knowledgeable, but they are actually representing [a] topic.”

Participants were asked to “check out” the books they wanted to talk to and sign up for a time slot for the next book availability. Students were offered short biographies about each representative as well as a list of suggested questions to ask to start the conversation.

A group of students could then sit with a book for 20 minutes as they talked.

“The feedback we have gotten has been pretty positive,” Gilmour said. “People like the event and hearing different perspectives.”

Gilmour believes the Human Library event provides a connection between the “book” and the people who talk with the “book.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s more beneficial [than reading a book], I wouldn’t say that,” Gilmour said. “I do think it is a qualitative vs. quantitative kind of thing. You can go and research and learn quantitative things about any of the topics. But to really see
the person and get to sit with [the book] and talk with them about whatever the topic is, that is a more qualitative, more emotional, experience.”

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