“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” “Beauty is only skin deep.” “There’s more to this than meets the eye.” There are plenty of aphorisms about the need to peel back the layers of someone or something to see what lies within.
People will have an opportunity to do just that when the Wilton Library once again offers its Human Library Saturday, March 23, from 1 to 5.
More than two dozen people have agreed to be “books” that people may check out to “read” and thus learn aspects of their lives that are not readily apparent. They will share their stories to foster greater understanding of challenges faced due to age, race, sexual orientation, religion, ability, lifestyle choices and other aspects of their identity
For example, one person will talk about the obstacles presented by her career as a female corrections officer working in a men’s prison. Another will explain how she recovered from anorexia. A third will explain how his fear of police grew from the hostility that greeted him as he worked as an attorney enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the rural South.
Religion is an aspect of life that can cause great misunderstanding and ill will. A number of people have stories to tell about enduring a lifetime of anti-Semitism, living through Kristallnacht in 1938, living a Bible-based faith, and living as a practicing Pagan.
Susan Lauricella, one of the organizers of the Wilton event, said the library was encouraged to bring the Human Library back because the response to the first one last year “was so incredibly positive.”
“It’s the best thing I’ve been involved with in the 17 years I’ve been here,” she told The Bulletin.
For the people who volunteered as books, “it was very cathartic for them in some ways to tell their stories and make connections, and in some cases help people,” Lauricella said.
Of the people who attended last year, she said some came just for the experience, but some people had specific books they wanted to connect with. The experience allows for conversation that might otherwise be difficult to initiate.
“You can’t walk up to someone and say, hey, what’s it like to have a guide dog or be a minority in Wilton. … To walk in someone else’s shoes is very powerful,” she said. “Everyone has something they are struggling with. Basically, don’t judge a book by its cover.”
How it works
There are 13 returning books and 12 or 13 new ones, what Lauricella jokingly refers to as “the classics and new releases.”
A “reader” doesn’t need a library card to participate, but he or she must be at least 13 years old. Students ages 10-12 must be accompanied by an adult.
When readers visit the library, they check in at the registration desk and agree to a set of rules such as “return a book in the same mental and physical condition.” When they sign their name, they will get a Human Library sticker which allows them to get on line and see what books are available. A person may request one hold for one book that might be already checked out.
Readers and books will have 20 to 30 minutes to talk, and a list of conversation starters will be provided.
Readers and books will be set up in the Brubeck Room, teen area, Innovation Station, and Reading Room.
For more information on the event and the books that will be available, visit www.wiltonlibrary.org and click on Human Library.