Members of the Human Library

From left are Kevin Walsh, Randy Ross, William Shuttleworth, Mike Rogers, Ron Kolek, Joyce Poggi Hager, and Judah Leblang served as some of the "human books" during the Tewksbury Library's 2nd annual Human Library on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Residents were able to "borrow" each for 15-minute 1-on-1 conversations. The experience challenged individuals to confront their own misconceptions, prejudices, and stereotypes about different types of people. Never judge a book by its cover!                                                        (Courtesy photo)

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.

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