Wilton Library tackles the personal side of prejudice when it creates its Human Library again this year on Saturday, March 23, from 1-5 p.m.. Twenty-five human “books” will open themselves up to discussion on a one-on-one basis over the course of the four-hours, as visitors can “check out” a “book” to engage in meaningful dialog and learning.
The myriad of subjects covered in this human library “collection” relate to age, race, sexual orientation, religion, ability, lifestyle choices or other aspects of their identities. The human books are community members who have volunteered to break down barriers in a non-judgmental environment. It is an opportunity for those who have faced prejudice to tell their stories and show people who they really are. At the same time, it is a chance for others to change their preconceived notions based on a person’s appearance, lifestyle, or beliefs.
The Human Library is an international movement that started in Denmark in 2000 and is now held in more than 70 countries. Wilton Library was the first non-academic library in Connecticut to receive permission from the Human Library Organization to host an event. Last year, more than 200 people checked out the human books at the library’s event to gain a better understanding of themselves and others. They really lived the tag line, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover.”
Of last year’s 25 participants, 13 human books are returning to share their stories on personal topics. Their challenges include facing the stigma of Alzheimer’s; coping with mental illness in the family; overcoming adversity as a minority in a not-so diverse town; being blind in a visually-oriented world; practicing pagan ways; discovering adult ADHD; and living in fear of the Nazis in Germany.
New books this year will reveal their journeys with depression; anorexia; dyslexia; living and thriving with chronic illness; life after near-death experiences; religious choices; perspective from a female corrections officer in a men’s prison; surviving civil rights prejudices in the ’60s South, and so many more.
Susan Lauricella, Teen Services and Maker Space manager, who spearheaded the effort to bring the Human Library to Wilton Library says library officials are very much looking forward to this year’s event. “Our community members who give so much of themselves are so open and inviting to the ‘readers.’ It’s such a personal way to put prejudices aside and really listen to another person.”
Melissa Baker, the library’s media and digital services librarian, suggests people can visit the Wilton Library website for more interactive information on the event. “We have a wonderful, short video on our website produced by Mary Clay Fields that shows what our Human Library event is all about. We encourage people to take a look; hopefully it sparks their interest in coming around and taking out some great books!”
The event is free and there is no registration. If a book is unavailable at any point, the reader will be placed on a “reserved” list and will be notified when the book is available. One-on-one conversations with each book are about 20 – 30 minutes long. For a preview of the books being offered, visit the Wilton Library webpage cataloging the list of books.
The program is made possible with the help of Mountainside Treatment Center of Wilton and the John and Patricia Curran Fund.
Wilton Library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Rd..