Williams College Invites Community to Experience the Human Library

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., Jan. 31, 2012 – Williams College invites all members of the community to experience the Human Library, Friday, Feb. 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Paresky Center on the Williams College campus. This is a free, interactive event and reservations are not required.

The Human Library at Williams contains 35 to 40 books: living people who have volunteered to be “checked out” for 25 to 30 minutes each. As a reader, a visitor will be able to start a one-on-one conversation with any book in the Library. This is an opportunity to borrow another person for a given time and ask them what you want to know. The goal is for members of our community—both on campus and off—to learn more about each other, to explore and move beyond stereotypes, and to develop a greater understanding of each person’s unique story.

All of the books participating in this project have titled themselves. The Library contains such titles as, “Custodian,” “Evangelical Christian,” “Fat Woman,” “Feminist,” “Iraq War Veteran,” “LDS Missionaries (Mormon),” “Olympic Athlete,” “Orphanage Boy,” “Psychiatrist,” and “Queer,” among others.

The Human Library Project was organized at Williams by Magnus Bernhardsson, associate professor of history and Gaudino Scholar, and Katarzyna Pierprzak, associate professor of Francophone literature, French language, and comparative literature. Professors Bernhardsson and Pierprzak worked closely with Mt. Greylock Regional High School and Williamstown Elementary School to identify the types of books people might be interested in learning more about.

“Prejudice can appear in many forms, in ways that you might not even realize,” says Professor Bernhardsson. “The Human Library is a way for people in our community to appreciate one another and a useful reminder of our assumptions. The conversations in the Library may lead to some ‘uncomfortable learning,’ which is an objective of the Gaudino Fund, but ultimately it will hopefully make us better readers of our community and the various challenges people face on a daily basis.”

He adds, “Williams hosts many events that are free and open to the public but it is not often that members of the larger community can interact directly with students, faculty members, and staff. This provides that opportunity and is a way to affirm that we are all part of one community.”

Helena Warburg, head of the Science Library at Williams, will be participating as a book titled, “Child of Holocaust Survivors.” Warburg says that she wanted to participate because, “I’m a librarian and I love the message you get from a book. So the opportunity to be a human book instead of a written book is intriguing.” She adds, “It’s not every day you can ask someone any question you want about their life experiences.  I am excited to be able to share something personal about myself, so that people can get a better idea of who I am and what makes me tick.”

The Human Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices, and encourage understanding. Typically organized by municipal libraries worldwide, this is the first time a Human Library will be in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Human Library was conceived in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark, by a self-initiated, non-governmental youth movement called “Stop The Violence.”

Support for the Human Library at Williams is provided by the Gaudino Fund and Sawyer Library.

To learn more about the Human Library, visit www.humanlibrary.org


For building locations on the Williams campus, please consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications (413) 597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at www.williams.edu/map

To visit the college on the Internet: www.williams.edu Williams College can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/williamscollege and Twitter: twitter.com/williamscollege