Human Library changes student perspectives

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SVSU’s first Human Library event took place on Tuesday, March 21.

The event ran from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on the first floor of the Zahnow Library. The Human Library consisted of 11 individuals who represented “books” that attendees could interact with for 15 minutes to a half-hour.

“I hope that the attendees gain a better understanding of people with different backgrounds, lifestyles or world views, and also perhaps a sense that they are not alone if they happen to share the book’s story in some way,” said associate English professor Sherrin Frances.

Each story, or community member, showed attendees a new perspective, said first-year occupational therapy student Audrey Tomaszewski.

“Even though attending this event was an opportunity for extra credit, I saw fliers all over and thought, ‘I’m going to go because I’m interested,’” Tomaszewski said. “I learned to pay attention to your surroundings even if it’s a safe spot and you’ve been there before. It’s important to take your life into perspective.”

Third-year education major Brittney Davidson read “Connections with Buddhism,” which is about a man finding his religion and describing his experiences as a monk.

“We talked about the differences in religion, but also the many similarities, such as the good things that people draw from their religion,” Davidson said. “Sometimes, it’s hard, because people get lumped into these categories. For example, if someone does something bad, then they’re all viewed as bad. It was interesting to hear his opinion and his story, and I think that gets lost when people talk about religion. They think about the big picture rather than the individual story and the benefits that come with it.”

First-year nursing student Sara Granger read “From Illegal Alien to Legal Resident,” and she said she learned some valuable lessons during the event.

“I learned that it is important to be organized,” she said. “She almost got deported because of a mix-up with the mailman because he forgot to give her the envelop with the papers she needed.”

First-year education major Brittany Rubio also read “From Illegal Alien to Legal Resident.”

“I learned that not all illegal aliens are here for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I feel that every person that comes should not be harshly judged, and we need to modify the system a little bit more.”

Roughly 100 people attended the Human Library.

“I really enjoyed the atmosphere,” third-year education major Jeanine Hess said. “I also liked that it was one-on-one and we got to sit down with a book instead of being in a line and everyone asking questions in front of a large group of people.”

Ashley Lockhart, a first-year social work major, said she hopes the Human Library becomes an annual event.

“I think that we should do this next year,” she said. “It’s a good thing to keep going for the public, and I think word should get out more.”

The Human Library was made possible by SVSU, the volunteers and the attendees.

“It means so much to know that the SVSU community values this kind of event,” Frances said. “There is a tremendous power in having a face-to-face conversation with someone about a serious or taboo topic. And the success of the Human Library has driven that home more than ever. I’d like to thank the SVSU Foundation for providing funding to get us started and to thank the Zahnow librarians and the English students in Sigma Tau Delta for being Human Library partners.”