By Cassy Lee, Upper School Librarian
TAS experienced its first-ever Human Library earlier this spring.
But what exactly is a Human Library, you might ask?
The Human Library is a framework developed in Denmark in 2000 for challenging stereotypes by hearing human "books" tell their stories about how a particular part of their identity that has been misunderstood or discriminated against and having a conversation with their “readers”. It provides an opportunity for participants to experience the vast diversity of the Human Library we are all a part of and build empathy and understanding as they read another's story.
On April 14 and 15 during 3rd and 4th periods, the USIC with the help of the Archivists, hosted sessions with 11 human books, all members of our faculty and staff who shared their stories of a wide range of identities and experiences including being a refugee, an astrophysicist, a Dreamer, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, members of various racial and ethnic groups, and more.
While it was a challenge to have to pivot online for the second day during the US closure, we were able to persist and over 60 students and colleagues participated in 24 sessions for a total of 136 “readings”.
Everyone took something different away from this event, as evidenced in the participant feedback forms.
For some, it was an important affirmation of a part of their own identity they got to see reflected in others. For others, it was a window into life experiences they knew little about and they came away with a new perspective to consider.
One student shared that they appreciated the chance to “ get to see my teachers or counselors as humans, and this not only makes me genuinely respect them but see them as more than just an authoritative figure.”
Respondents of the feedback form reported learning new things about prejudice and feeling inspired to be more open toward things they aren’t familiar with.
From the positive response we had and the many requests for more events like this, we hope to do this again next year and perhaps be able to bring in "books" from outside of our school community when covid restrictions decrease.
The more exposure to many perspectives we have, the more we are able to learn not to judge a book by its cover, to respect the dignity of others and their experiences, and feel equipped to converse across differences.
Our Human Library books have shared a list of book recommendations if you are interested in learning more about some of the topics they discussed in their sessions: Human Library Book Recommendations
Thank you to everyone who participated!