Torreyson Library at the University of Central Arkansas is planning for its second annual Human Library experience on campus this spring.
“The Human Library is an event that is very special to me,” Tamela Smith, head of access services in the library, said.
It all began in 2018 when the Faulkner County Library in Conway hosted a similar event. Intrigued, Smith said she saw the value in bringing the idea to the UCA campus.
“The Human Library is an event which is held all over the world in more than 80 countries,” she said. “The purpose is to provide a space for open[,] positive dialog between two people who may never otherwise have an opportunity to do so.”
Smith said the “readers” are given an opportunity to ask difficult questions from the “books.”
“Books are volunteers, that represent a group in the community that have experienced some kind of stigma or prejudice,” she said. “They come to our event willing to discuss their unique perspectives with event attendees / readers. It can be difficult or uncomfortable to talk about yourself, especially when you are very different from the person you are having a conversation with.”
Examples of types of volunteers, or books, include people with an invisible physical disability, someone from a different culture, or a person who subscribes to a different religion or no religion, ones who have overcome extreme circumstances such as homelessness or abuse, to name a few.
“This event is very important because it gives opportunities for conversations and understanding,” Smith said. “It is easy to judge others from a distance, but once you speak to someone face-to-face and hear their perspective, their story, it becomes easier to understand their point of view.”
She said take pride in being diverse, so much that it is part of the mission and vision statements: “We are dedicated to attracting and supporting a diverse student, faculty and staff population and enhanced multicultural learning opportunities. We value the opportunity to work, learn, and develop in a community that embraces the diversity of individuals and ideas, including race, ethnicity, religion, spiritual beliefs, national origin, age, gender, marital status, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, physical ability, political affiliation, and intellectual perspective.”
“The Human Library does exactly that, embraces diversity and creates community among event participants,” Smith said.
She said they had “overwhelming” and positive feedback from last year’s event and even received messages from other libraries across Arkansas asking how to host this event at the varying locations. In response, Smith and several others from UCA – Joanna Ewing, Chrissy Karafit and Hannah Hanshaw – presented at the annual Arkansas Libraries Association State Conference last fall.
“We had over 40 attendees to our presentation on how to host this event and lessons we learned,” Smith said. “We hope that more libraries in Arkansas will begin hosting their own Human Library events.”
UCA’s upcoming event will be held from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on April 14.
Right now, the planning committee is searing for volunteers to serve as the books and librarians.
“We will not only need volunteers to be [b]ooks, but we will also need [l]ibrarians,” Smith said. “Librarians are volunteers who help with the event logistics and take care of the [b]ooks and [r]eaders during the event. We have a lot of wonderful student, staff, and faculty volunteers but this event is open to the community, therefore, all are invited to volunteer.”
For more information and to sign up to volunteer visit https://uca.libguides.com/HumanLibrary.