Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor Des Moines University Des Moines, Iowa
Background: The ability to work empathetically with a diverse array of patients and colleagues is crucial to quality health care and the success of future health care professionals. To support diversity education, a core value at our institution, we led an interdepartmental group in putting on our institution’s first ever Human Library® event. The Human Library® is a licensable event format that facilitates one-on-one conversations between community members (“Readers”) and volunteers (“Books”). Books share experiences with challenges due to their identity or life experience, speaking openly and honestly with the Readers who have “checked them out” for a twenty-minute conversation.
Description: Representatives from the Student Counseling Center, Student Life, Marketing, Community Relations, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs joined library staff in planning and executing the event. The team met weekly, biweekly, or monthly depending on need, and communicated via email otherwise. Responsibilities were divided between team members based on area of expertise and interest. These responsibilities included recruitment, selection and training of Books, space selection and setup, hospitality for Books and Readers, precautionary security and aftercare provisions, advertising, and management of the “checkout” process. Post event, the team met to review evaluations, assess the event, and note any adjustments for future events. Books were recruited from our campus community and via community partners and titles included “Person of Size”, “Teen Mom”, “Just a Nurse”, “Bi-Muslim” and “Disability Pride.” Readers included university staff, faculty and students across multiple programs.
Conclusion: Licensed materials provided included evaluations for Books, Readers, and event planners. In these post-event evaluations and in informal conversations Readers, Books, and planners reported excellent experiences, and all responses were very positive about the event overall. After review of the event, the team has decided to host another sometime in the upcoming year. We are also considering developing an IPE event around the Human Library®, as well as considering ways in which we can involve the wider metro area community.