TEWKSBURY — Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be someone else? At a Human Library event you’d get the chance!
The Tewksbury Public Library is only the second library in the Merrimack Valley Library consortium to offer the globally recognized program, and this November’s session was the second year Tewksbury hosted the event.
The adult program is based off of The Human Library Organization’s project to “lend” real people and their experiences as “human books.”
Community services librarian Robert Hayes curates the event for the TPL and was able to bring an exciting cross section of people to the library. Registrants ask questions and challenge their perceptions about different people with various life stories and experiences.
According to Hayes, the selected “books” aim to represent members of the community who are exposed to general misconceptions, stigma, stereotyping and/or prejudice. The books are loaned during the event in nine 15-minute sessions to individuals or small groups (2-3 individuals), with five-minute breaks in between each session. Books are stationed in designated conversation areas around the library building.
Hayes conducts a 45-minute training session in advance with the volunteers who are sharing their stories, which includes ice breakers and question prompts to help both the book and “reader” engage. Registrants are also given sample questions to use as they probe the human book for commonalities and differences.
Hayes said, “it’s a safe space for people of different backgrounds and cultures to learn about each other and challenge their conscious and unconscious stereotypes.”
This year's Human Books included Denis Beaudry, a man who has led 12 international bike trips, most recently traveling 10,000 miles in four months — flying to Spain, cycling to China, flying to California, and cycling home to Lowell; Joyce Poggi Hager, caregiver to her intellectually disabled brother and author of "Jimmy and Me: A Sister's Memoir;" Ron Kolek, paranormal investigator, founder of the New England Ghost Project, and author of "The Ghost Chronicles: A Medium and Paranormal Scientist Investigate 17 True Hauntings;" Judah Leblang, a gay man with a hearing impairment who works with the Deaf Community and author of "Echoes of Jerry: One Man's Search for His Deaf Uncle and His Own Voice;" Mike Rogers, a popular and talented blind musician; Randy Ross, a reluctant world traveler and author of "God Bless, Cambodia;" William Shuttleworth, a 71-year-old Air Force veteran who just walked across the country (3,600 miles) to raise awareness of veteran issues; and Kevin Walsh, a man who made national news for soaring around Boston on a helium balloon ride and author of "57 Balloons."
Hayes was pleased with the turnout and said that 60-65 conversations were conducted and that feedback was very positive. This has become an annual event and will run again next November.