In the year 2000, the Human Library was started by a group of young folks as a project to combat the gang violence raging in Denmark. The idea of using people volunteers as stand-ins for books was meant to provide an interactive environment that supports diversity and inclusion.
The now-global project has found its way to Fort Wayne. The Fort Wayne Human Library (FWHL) project is scheduled for August 4, on the lower level of the Allen County Public Library Downtown, at 900 Library Plaza.
“Imagine going to a library looking for a [specific] topic. Now imagine that topic is an actual person, bringing a group of diverse stories to life by opening the pages of our community to readers,” said FWHL co-organizer Nicole King, who is working with partner Ellen Sauer on the one-day event.
And they need volunteers to assist with the scheduled activities, like orientation for attendees, the panel discussion room, and, of course, the “library” room where “books,” experts approached for their unique points-of-view and life experiences, are “checked out” in order to tell stories and drop life knowledge.
Volunteers are called “librarians.”
“We need 70 volunteers, and we probably have about 25,” Sauer said. With three shifts of work (8 A.M. to 11 A.M., 11 A.M. to 2 A.M., and 2 A.M. to 5 A.M.), a volunteer will still have time to visit the rest of the rooms.
King and Sauer have assembled (to name a few) to speak: a young woman who was sent off to be married when she was fourteen, a recovering alcoholic, a gentleman who was an addict and homeless, books dealing with autism and down syndrome, abuse survivors, and someone living with HIV.
Roderick Parker will discuss being in a gang and incarceration. Ketu Oladuwa’s book is titled “Death Row Has Saved My Life.”
LGBTQ representation including a young man whose parents sent him to conversion therapy, a drag queen, an advocate from a group who supports young LGBTQ individuals.
A Muslim woman, and several immigrants from Philippines, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, and Mexico are also scheduled books.
The panel discussion (5 panels total) will feature question-and-answer participation, including a section with married couples of all combinations, including the hardest duo to find, a white couple who’ve been married for 70+ years.
Orientation is mandatory for all attendees.
“Some people wanted to share their story in the confinement and the safe space of the Human Library, but did not want to be marketed for event,” Sauer said. “All of our people, all of our books, are on the other side of healing, so they can now talk about it.”
For a more detailed list of the “books,” or to volunteer, hit up their Facebook page: Fort Wayne Human Library.
King and Sauer intentionally wanted to make the FWHL a community-produced, community-represented event. King herself wanted to aim her lens to our community’s kids.
“I feel sometimes children have their ears the widest open. And this event is about targeting prejudice, stigmas, and I feel like if you get youth now and let [hear] a narrative from someone who is living the life, [in] a safe space to hear the story, that might jog something for them,” King said.
“I feel that we are set with our traditions and culture that we are not realizing that the world is so much bigger than just your neighborhoods and your streets.” The Human Library, from Denmark to Fort Wayne.
Again, for a more detailed list of the “books,” or to volunteer, hit up their Facebook page: Fort Wayne Human Library.