Williams Invites Community To Experience 'Human Library'

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College is inviting the community to experience a "Human Library" on  Friday, Feb. 10, from 11 to 3  and Saturday, Feb. 11, from 1 to 3 at the Paresky Center on campus.

This is a free, interactive event and reservations are not required. Support is provided by the Gaudino Fund and Sawyer Library.

The Human Library contains 35 to 40 books, or rather people, who have volunteered to be "checked out" for 25 to 30 minutes each. As a reader, a visitor will be able to start a one-on-one conversation with any book in the library. This is an opportunity to borrow another person for a given time and ask them what you want to know. The goal is for members of the community — both on campus and off — to learn more about each other, to explore and move beyond stereotypes, and to develop a greater understanding of each person's unique story.

All of the books participating in this project have titled themselves as "Custodian," "Evangelical Christian," "Fat Woman," "Feminist," "Iraq War Veteran," "LDS Missionaries (Mormon)," "Olympic Athlete," "Orphanage Boy," "Psychiatrist" and "Queer" among others.

The Human Library Project was organized by Magnus Bernhardsson, associate professor of history and Gaudino Scholar, and Katarzyna Pierprzak, associate professor of Francophone literature, French language, and comparative literature. Professors Bernhardsson and Pierprzak worked closely with Mount Greylock Regional High School and Williamstown Elementary School to identify the types of books people might be interested in learning more about.

"Prejudice can appear in many forms, in ways that you might not even realize," said Bernhardsson. "The Human Library is a way for people in our community to appreciate one another and a useful reminder of our assumptions. The conversations in the library may lead to some 'uncomfortable learning,' which is an objective of the Gaudino Fund, but ultimately it will hopefully make us better readers of our community and the various challenges people face on a daily basis."

Helena Warburg, head of the Science Library at Williams, will be participating as the book "Child of Holocaust Survivors." Warburg said she wanted to participate because, "I'm a librarian and I love the message you get from a book. So the opportunity to be a human book instead of a written book is intriguing."

She adds, "It's not every day you can ask someone any question you want about their life experiences. I am excited to be able to share something personal about myself, so that people can get a better idea of who I am and what makes me tick."

The Human Library was conceived in 2000 in Copenhagen by a self-initiated, non-governmental youth movement called "Stop The Violence." To learn more, visit www.humanlibrary.org.
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