Kutztown University hosts first Human Library to challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue

Kutztown University junior social work student Caleb Baukman, Wallingford, Delaware County, serves as a “book” during the Human Library at KU on Nov. 9.
Kutztown University junior social work student Caleb Baukman, Wallingford, Delaware County, serves as a “book” during the Human Library at KU on Nov. 9. Submitted photo - KU

Kutztown University hosted its inaugural Human Library on Nov. 9, in the Rohrbach Library.

The project served as a place where real people were on loan to readers. A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered. Readers could check out a book for 20 minutes to “read” and then they are returned to the checkout counter.

The event is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes.

The Human Library, or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000 as a project for the Roskilde Festival.

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Mina Isaac, a freshman from Blandon, discussed his experience as a “Faith-Based Scientist.”

“Being a biology major I thought it would be an interesting topic,” he said. “We talked about gaining a better perspective of different opinions, for example just because evolution is fact doesn’t disprove God.”

Each human book was different from the next based on their titles, however once the book was opened for discussion it became visible that people are not so different after all.

Caleb Baukman, a social work major from Delaware County, Pa., was “Black Male Expected to Fail.” He elaborated on how the system put in place is failing young black men and women disproportionately more than any other race.

“I got involved because I love listening to people’s stories plus my goal is to educate since I believe education to be the best solution to break the cycle of discrimination in America,” he said.

Planning started last March, organized by the Rohrbach Library staff and the office of Inclusion and Outreach, with support from the Commission on Human Diversity. The first annual Human Library day had 12 books including students, faculty, staff and community members. Topics available included “Young Immigrant,” “Black Male Expected to Fail,” “Muslim Woman,” “High Functioning Autistic” and “Faith-Based Scientist.”

Marcus Noll is a Kutztown University senior communication studies major from Oley.