(image credit: Rosa Valente)

On Wednesday, March 21, there was a human library exhibit called “Creating Community Through Conversation.” The event was held in the library cafè.

Human libraries are a trend which began in the early 2000s in Denmark. The ultimate goal is to promote conversation between people from different cultural, economic and social backgrounds.

Attendees had the opportunity to look through a catalogue that gave brief descriptions of the main focal point of the human books’ stories. They then had the opportunity to check out one of the “books” for fifteen minutes and have a conversation with them. There was a total of nine sessions to choose from over the course of three hours. Conversations could focus on the book described in their catalogue biography, but they could also be about anything else.

“The point was to challenge stereotypes and prejudices and whatnot, and really kind of build bridges between people,” said Heather Walker-White, the library communications coordinator and the organizer of this event. “We have such a rich, diverse community that I really wanted to get people to share their story.”

The available “books” were a mix of volunteers who were selected in an open-recruitment process. They included four SNHU students and six members of the surrounding community who had personal experience with everything from abuse to having a disability. Heather Knockaert (’19) and Sarah Schoenbeck (‘19) were two of the SNHU students who took part as “books” in this event.

Schoenbeck is the survivor of a traumatic brain injury. She is attending SNHU for a degree in Education, and she talked about the obstacles she faced while trying to get into college.

Knockaert was a female in the United States Air Force for ten years and is currently a single mother of two. She is also attending SNHU with the intent of earning a psychology degree and plans to go for her masters in education afterwards.

“I feel many people would rather have a dialogue with people than to read a book on a subject. This not only allows them the ability to ask questions, but to also put a personal touch on the subjects,” said Knockaert. “It’s that personal connection that can really send the message home for people. I chose to be a part of this amazing opportunity because of the way it delivers the stories, and because my book of women veterans is immensely important. We need to have more female Veterans tell their stories so that when people think of the military, it’s not always in the image of a man.”

The library plans to do this event once a semester and hopes for it to become their signature event.

“I think it’s important for people to be able to sit down in a safe space and ask the questions that they may not otherwise be comfortable asking,” said Walker-White. “I think that this provides a really unique opportunity for people to connect at a very different level than you can at the dining hall or in classes or just in passing.”

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