New Growth for the Human Library Event


Carolyn Giusti

Phoebe DiSalvo-Harms, Humanities Librarian (left), and Emily Adydan, student worker for the library (right), welcome readers as discussions between books and readers happen behind them.

The Human Library grew to greater success in its second year. On Nov. 2, human books could be checked out, so their stories could be told to readers.

The mechanics of the event were identical to last year, but the event itself gained more popularity. Humanities Librarian Phoebe DiSalvo-Harms said this year was more successful in terms of visitors.

“In the first hour, we had more people than last year altogether,” DiSalvo-Harms said. There was a wait time of approximately 20 minutes for books due to high demand. She thinks this is because of increased advertising and heightened interest.

Student workers were very involved in the advertising process. Emily Adydan designed the fliers and posters, and Deanna Pomeroy did most of the social media advertising. On the library Instagram, there were four posts leading up to the event, and an Instagram story being updated during the event. The event was free for the college.

The librarians initially got 11 volunteers. This number was originally reduced to eight, then to six due to last minute cancellations.

This year, there were 22 readers who checked out books. Some individuals checked out more than one, resulting in 25 separate checkouts. This was a large increase from the seven readers they got last year.

The Human Book concept is popular in the library community said DiSalvo-Harms. She said it was important to create a place that promoted understanding and dialogue. “The library is no longer a quiet space, but instead a place that welcomes conversation,” DiSalvo-Harms said. “People are able to connect, meet, and learn about each other.”

The participants had complete freedom with the topics they wanted to discuss. They decided what they wanted to share, the title of their book and the description. Readers could browse the options in brochures made by the library staff. The library welcomed more difficult topics.
“We encouraged sensitive topics and allowed the books freedom in their stories,” DiSalvo-Harms said. “The values of Le Moyne allowed us to do this.”

The most popular books were Forgive Me, Daddy, for I Have Sinned: Confessions of a Gay Catholic, and The Overcomer and Her Healing Process. Some of the topics highlighted in these books included sexuality, religion, trauma, and pain.

Bennie Williams, the director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Global Education, planned and participated in the event. He checked out books as a reader. He found the event enlightening and said despite his standing relationships with participants, he learned so much.

“Even knowing some of the students, I learned so much more than I thought I knew. There is so much more history to each of these people,” Williams said. Both Williams and DiSalvo-Harms said that this process of conversation is beneficial to both readers and books.

“It is cool to see the growth and the pride of the participant,” Williams said. “It is a great way to gain confidence and develop their identities.”
The goal of the event was to create an organic conversation between books and readers, DiSalvo-Harms said. “The conversation isn’t necessarily a monologue. It is an attempt to understand the experience which may include questions and open conversation.”

Brianna Eassa, a senior at Le Moyne, attended the event as a reader. Her Information in Biology professor pushed her class to attend. “I spoke with two very different people with very different stories during the event,” Eassa said. “It is really important right now to try to see life from other people’s perspective. I learned a lot just by having a few short conversations.”