What happens when people become books

The Human Library comes to UF to tackle the tough topics.

By Pulse Staff

As any writer will tell you, everyone has a story.

Ten people from the Findlay community will get to share their stories in a special event on the University of Findlay campus on Tuesday, Oct. 11. It’s called the Human Library, and visitors will get a chance to “check-out” books from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Mazza Museum.

However, the “books” are actually people willing to share experiences that some people never know.

The event is presented by Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) and Phi Alpha (Social Work Honor Society) along with the Findlay-Hancock County Library. Joel Mantey, the assistant director of the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, has been working with the two UF groups to set up the event.

“The whole purpose of the human library is to make people aware of who’s in our community, and make people aware of what preconceived notions and stereotypes they may be carrying in their minds,” Mantey said. “(They’ll be) able to sit down with someone that they might not normally be able to sit down across from, and be able to ask questions and come to understand life experiences.”

Kayla Bays is the president of Sigma Tau Delta, one of the groups on campus working with the Findlay-Hancock County Library.

“I think we were most interested because it’s going to be something the University hasn’t done before, and it’s an event that’s going to appeal to any student studying any discipline from freshman through senior to graduates,” Bays said. “It’s really an event that’s going to be inclusive to every single person. Which is what was so interesting to us.”

The Human Library is a non-profit based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s designed to be a hands-on learning program to promote a better understanding of diversity, which could lead to more inclusive and cohesive communities, according to its website.

“It’s really going to open up dialogue between people that are books, trying to share their experience, and the community members and students who can be in a space where it’s acceptable to ask difficult questions,” Bays said.

The event is free to the public Refreshments and t-shirts will be available to UF students with an I.D. who come to “check out” these books.

Bays said the Sigma Tau Delta and Phi Alpha received $12,000 from the UF Student Government Association for the event as well.

“I know it’s going to go towards marketing materials,” Bays said. “The T-shirts will be in the budget. I know the refreshments and snacks will also be included in that too.”

Mantey says the Library received a $500 grant to help manage the event.

“We did receive a grant from the Convention Visitors Bureau to assist with some marketing fund so that we can get it in the newspaper, some social media ads and up on one of the billboards, too,” Mantey said.

The library held the event last year at the Findlay High School.

“We had a decent showing,” Mantey said. “But we are really excited to be coming out to UF and partnering with the two honor societies. And it couldn’t be at a better spot than the Mazza to be sharing stories.”

The library put out a call in August for people in the Findlay community willing to share their stories. Mantey said they really wanted to explore those stories of people who have experienced some sort of discrimination or stereotyping. Once they received the applications they talked to each applicant and narrowed down the “books” to 10 people.

The Human Library headquarters offers training for the people willing to share their stories.

“They do an online webinar Zoom training for like once a week every month to just be able to onboard everyone,” Mantey said. “With over two decades of experience of running human library popups, they are be able to give those ‘books’ a bit of a training on how best to share their story and (establish their) comfortable level.”

Bays says she’s excited about students and community members getting the opportunity to hear a perspective and experience a story from someone that has felt like they were stereotyped or had some sort of trauma.

“We’re going to get such a unique perspective and we’re really going to be able to consider someone else’s experiences, put ourselves in their shoes before we form an opinion on someone,” Bays said. “It’s just going to have such a lasting impact on how we look at people and we really consider, you know, what their story is.”