Don’t judge a book by its cover: my experience with a Human Library

By: Megan Clark, Contributing Writer
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Towson University hosted its own Human Library in the University Union last week.

Students and community members came on Oct. 16 and 17 to learn about different identities, viewpoints and cultures through individuals that chose to share their stories with honesty.

The Human Library is an organization that began in 2000 in order to “stop violence” in the community. Ronni and Dany Abergel held the first Human Library for four days, eight hours each day, and hosted over 50 titles.

According to Towson’s website, The Human Library at Towson “aims to establish a safe, conversational space, where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and hopefully answered by the Human Book on loan. It was developed to challenge societal prejudices wherever and for whatever reasons they occur, and to help people form a better understanding of those with whom they share their communities.”

Each “book,” or volunteer, has a title that can be a topic with which the “book” feels strongly about, or an identity to which the “book” belongs. These titles vary from “Astrology,” to “Single Mother,” to “Wiccan.”

The people who serve as “books” volunteered their time and story to “readers,” or participants. At Towson’s Human Library, each “reader” could check out a “book” for up to 30 minutes and have a respectful Q & A.

I had the privilege of attending Towson’s Human Library on Wednesday, and was able to check out two “books.” I had the pleasure of talking to “Infertility,” and “Bisexual/Cultural Appropriation.” Each session was about 20 minutes long and involved the “book” telling their story and ended with a few questions.

“Infertility” told me about her struggles with getting pregnant, battling the insurance companies, and eventually giving birth after three years of artificial insemination trials. At the end, I asked why she was participating in the Human Library, to which she replied “The only way to break a stigma is to talk about it.”

“Bisexual/Cultural Appropriation” and I discussed Halloween costumes and the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. This was a topic I thought I knew enough about, but after “reading” this “book,” I discovered a new side to changing cultures and how to better appreciate different people around the world.

At the end of each session, I was asked to fill out a review form for my “books.” This survey included questions like “How can we make the Human Library better next time?” and “What did you like most about your book?” The volunteers at the check-out desk were very helpful with all of my questions and were able to give me links to more information about the Human Library movement.

If you want to find a Human Library near you, or even volunteer to be a “book,” check out for locations and dates of events.


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