“Human Library” comes alive at West Irving Library

Library patrons had a unique opportunity to ‘borrow’ people during the “Human Library” presented at the West Irving Library on Saturday, July 22.

The Human Library project invited individuals to ‘check out’ real people from various ethnic, social, and marginalized communities, and ask them questions. The project has featured a wide variety of humans, from sexual abuse and traumas survivors to Muslims and transgendered individuals, all with the purpose of educating the community and helping to dispel harmful stereotypes surrounding those groups.

The event was held as part of the library’s city-wide Summer Reading Challenge and this year’s theme was “Build a Better World.”

“The Human Library was started in Denmark and it’s designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudice by talking to people who have dealt with them,” said Linda Opella, librarian at West Irving Library. “Everyone has a story to tell, and this is just a way for them to tell their story to other people and other people can say, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting. I never thought about it that way,’ or ‘I never looked at it that way.’ Hopefully, it can challenge stereotypes and prejudices and change minds.”

This was the first Human Library event held at the West Irving Library and featured three local individuals. Sylvia Nordeman, a communication specialist for the library, was one of the storytellers at the event. Nordeman suffered two miscarriages before giving birth to her son, all within a span of two years. She wanted to share her story to help people understand what it is really like to go through a miscarriage and how they can help those who have experienced it.

“When I had my miscarriage, I felt like there were so many things that people didn’t understand about it,” Nordeman said. “People were very reluctant to talk about it. People just wanted to sweep it under the rug. I thought it would be so much better if we could have an open conversation about it.”

Patrick Booth, a drug addiction counselor from Lewisville, Texas, walked away from his job in the corporate world to travel the world as a missionary. Booth has visited 11 different Latin American countries and has written a book about his adventures titled The Long Road Home.

“When I sold my business and went out into the mission field for a year visiting those 11 different countries, I was blogging. At the end of it, I just felt that this story was bigger than me,” Booth said. “I put it down into a book specifically so I could share it. I want to continue to share it because my story is really beyond me.”

Susan Sullivan, a web designer who currently lives in Argyle, Texas, walked away from the corporate world to start a farm where she raises chickens and bees. Through her story, Sullivan hopes people will gain more interest in learning where their food comes from.

“I like telling my story because I like to talk to people about the food they eat, where it comes from, teach people that you can eat food that’s ethical and sustainable, and that animals don’t really need to suffer,” she said.

Although the stories were different, all three participates learned others were just as happy to share their own stories.

“It was really nice to be able to hear not just their interest in my story, but also hear how it connects to their individual stories,” Booth said. “I really feel like everyone has a story that they can share, so it was nice to be able to hear their inspiration and be inspired by them as well as to share my story and let them be inspired by me.”