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Library Human Library

5th Annual Human Library

November 2020

What is the Human Library?

The Human Library® is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. ‘Human Books’ are Fairfield University students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have volunteered to share their story to break down barriers based on race, religion, sexual orientation, class, gender identity, lifestyle choices, disability or other aspects of their life. The Human Library provides the opportunity for the Fairfield University community to share and understand the experiences of others. 

What happens at the event? And what am I expected to do as a book?

The readers wait in line to select a book to talk to from a list of book titles and descriptions. When a book is selected a staff member will ask you to come over to meet the reader and you can choose any place to sit and have your conversation. Books share their unique story to a reader/readers. Readers are encouraged to ask questions or share as well. This conversation could take around 10-20 minutes. You could talk to one, two, or possibly three people at a time, but only if you feel comfortable. Conversations between books and readers usually flow naturally.  We provide readers with “starter questions” in case they need some help figuring out what to say. Just be yourself - that will help to relax you and to relax the person you’re talking with. After the conversation, when the reader heads into a different room to complete a reflection, you can come back to the main event area to be “checked in” to speak to more readers, or you can take a break in the designated break room (stocked with snacks and drinks). You will take a reflective survey at the end too. To better understand what a Human Library looks like, you can watch a video from our first event.

What do I gain by being a "Human Book"?

While everyone’s experiences are different, past book volunteers have expressed a sense of camaraderie, validation, and pride that comes from meeting fellow books and sharing their stories with members of the Fairfield community. Sharing your story may help someone else who is struggling with a similar challenge. Check out more reasons here. Please note that this is a volunteer role, there is no financial compensation. We provide refreshments for our books and volunteers on the day of the event. 

How much of a time commitment is it?

We would love to have you be at the event for at least an hour. You can also sign-up for both sessions. When you sign-up you can indicate your availability. We also ask that you try to come around 15 minutes before the session start time so we can give further instructions, get you some food, and give you your t-shirt, and take a group photo (photo optional).

Can someone help me think through my story and come up with a title? Or practice telling my story?

Yes, the Human Library committee members (Fairfield staff and faculty) can meet with you one-on-one in person, or talk with you over the phone, to talk through your story. We try to meet with every new book. Returning books who have participated in the event before do not need to meet, unless they want to. 

Can I see sample book titles and descriptions?

Check out the links on the Books page to get a sense of what stories were shared at past Human Library events. Some books did not want to be on the website, so they are not included on the list.

Do I need to have my name, photo, and story on the website?

Some books feel comfortable putting their first name, photo, and story description on our website but others prefer to be anonymous. Your story can be listed as anonymous on the website (with no photo) or you can opt not to be listed on the website at all. The day of the event all book titles and descriptions are listed on printed materials but not with names or images.

Can I change my title or description later?

Yes, as long as you get in touch with us at least two weeks before the event we can tweak your title and description.

Will there be photography or filming at the event?

Yes there could be photographers/videographers but we will provide a “no photography/video” space where you can choose to go with your reader to have conversations.

How does staff keep the environment safe for volunteers like me?

Maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for you to share your story is our top priority. When readers check into an event, they are provided with a statement to read about the event (as well as possible questions they can ask). We also would not use your full name in any public documentation or give it out to anyone. Books are provided with special conversation ender cards that can be used to subtly signal that a moderator needs to end the conversation. Staff event moderators will be continuously walking around the room to help or step in to end the conversation, if the conversation makes you uncomfortable in any way.There is also a break room available for all books. Counselors are available to continue the conversation too, should you choose to. Also, if you decide at any time that you are not feeling comfortable being a book, let us know. It is perfectly okay if you do not want to participate.

Who attends the event?

Mostly Fairfield University students attend. First-year students are the largest class group that attend. Staff, faculty, and alumni attend too. Occasionally there are folks from the surrounding community that come too but this is predominantly a campus event that is only promoted internally to Fairfield University.

Can my friends or family attend the event?

Of course. All are welcome. Your friends might want to talk to another human book since they may already have heard your story.

Where do I show up?

The event takes place in the Library. When the date gets closer we will send you details on which room to show up to.

What do I wear?

When you arrive the day of the event we will provide a t-shirt for you to put on. Show up in whatever you feel comfortable in.

Is there an opportunity to give feedback or get involved with planning the event?

Yes, every book (and all readers) are asked to take a brief reflection immediately after the event. The Human Library planning committee also welcomes students, staff, and faculty to be part of the planning group. There are three meetings: August, September and October. Committee members can also just volunteer to help the day of the event (or by being a book).

Books 2020