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March 20, 2017

SVSU seeks to empower open minds with Human Library event

Frances and PhelpsSaginaw Valley State University will host a Human Library event Tuesday, March 21 from 5 p.m. 8 p.m. on the first floor of the Zahnow Library.  

The Human Library will be a one-time, three-hour event where people can check out “books.” These “books,” in reality, are human beings, community members who have volunteered to share their stories, experiences and life choices. The “readers” — in fact, the attendees — and the “books” then have one-on-one conversations for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Sherrin Frances, SVSU associate professor of English, helped transplant the concept to SVSU from Denmark, where the Human Library Organization conceived the idea more than a decade ago.
Frances told The Valley Vanguard, SVSU’s student newspaper, that the event will provide audiences with an opportunity to speak in-depth with people who have dramatically different life experiences, histories, and perspectives.
“Based on the heated, divisive rhetoric generated during the presidential campaigning in the fall of 2016, it seems clear that creating safe, facilitated spaces for meaningful conversation among people with different beliefs, experiences, and histories is more valuable than ever,” she told The Vanguard.

Every Human Library's specific catalog varies depending on community needs and specific volunteers. SVSU’s version will feature people who tell stories about single-parenting an autistic child, maneuvering through the U.S. citizenship process, surviving brain cancer, recovering from drug addiction, and rebuilding one's life after homelessness.  
Frances received a resource grant from the SVSU Foundation to put together the event. SVSU students, faculty, and staff are helping to organize, including Victoria Phelps, an English literature major from Rochester Hills.
“We hope the event leads community members to have conversations with other community members who are more outside their typical social circles in order to expand their understanding and empathy for people who are often stereotyped,” Phelps told The Vanguard.
The event will take place in the lower corner "Reference Collection" area of the library’s first floor. Due to ongoing construction, those interested in attending can reach the first floor through a temporary first-floor entrance adjacent to parking lot D or by entering through the second floor.

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information on Human Libraries, visit