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Human Library event allows visitors to ‘rent’ people



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Monroe County Public Library is located at 303 E. Kirkwood Ave. The library is planning a third branch on the southwest side of Bloomington. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

One of the ways to step into another person’s shoes is to listen to them tell stories about their lives. The Human Library at The Monroe County Public Library is an event that allowed attendees to learn about other people and what discrimination or struggles they might face in their day-to-day lives. 

The MCPL presented The Human Library event Saturday. It was organized by Bobby Overman, a community engagement librarian and a nonprofit central specialist. The concept of a human library originated in Copenhagen in 2000 according to the library, but Overman said she got the idea to bring the event to Bloomington from watching a TED talk. 

“The library is all about inclusivity and creating dialogue, so when I heard what this event was about, I thought ‘what a more perfect spot than here at the library?’” Overman said. “I felt like it would be so much fun to facilitate that.”

The library partnered with the Shalom Community Center and the We Are You organization for this event. According to the event’s web page, the goal of the Human Library was to create a safe space for open dialogue about controversial or unusual topics and also challenge stereotypes.

The basis of the Human Library event is for attendees to sit down one-on-one with volunteer “human books” and have 20-minute conversations with them about their lives. Some examples of topics for the “human books” included sexuality, living with amputation, ethnicity, homelessness and autism. One volunteer, Daisy Baker, has a learning disability and triumphed over ovarian cancer.

“I think it was a good thing for the community,” Baker said. “I think they should do more events like this. A lot of people can come in and talk to people from different places and what they’ve been through.”

Another volunteer, Cairril Adaire, identifies as Pagan. She told her story about moving away from Catholicism during high school and finding a religion that allowed her to make the rules on how to worship.

“From my own personal experience, there are so many misconceptions about the craft, especially this false connection with Satanism,” Adaire said. “It is incumbent of me to get out there and get the information out there that we are an Earth-centered religion, we are beneficent and that we we work for the greater good.”

There were multiple visitors who had the chance to learn about other people's lifestyles, and they were allowed to ask questions and have conversations without fear of being insensitive. 

“I loved this event, and it’s really good for the community because ultimately this is everything I believe,” participant James Honey said. “When I get to sit here everyday and listen to everybody, I get to see a little piece of myself in this universe, and it’s amazing. In every single person here I have found one or more likenesses. It’s not hard. It’s beautiful.”

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