Randall Library hosts Human Library Project


Fairley Lloyd

Photo (from left to right): Christopher Robinson, Outreach and Engagement Librarian and co-chair of the Randall Library Diversity Committee; Eva Sclippa, First Year Engagement Librarian and co-chair of the Randall Library Diversity Committee; Lisa Coats, Humanities Librarian

Fairley Lloyd, Assistant News Editor

The UNC Wilmington Randall Library Diversity Committee hosted a Human Library Project at the school’s library Tuesday to raise cultural awareness on campus, which was led, among many staff members, by Randall Library Diversity Committee co-chairs Christopher Robinson and Eva Sclippa.

The Human Library Project enlisted UNCW students, faculty, and staff to volunteer as “books” with “titles” representing aspects of their identities and personal experiences. Readers could “check out” the individual “books” for a period of time and could ask questions from the books (though the “books” could decline to answer any questions they did not feel comfortable sharing).

The checkout period lasted for 30 minutes. Readers could rotate and read other books in the same 30-minute increments.

Chosen book titles included “Adult Child of an Alcoholic,” “Flying Albino Nun,” and “Depressed Queer Pagan.”

The “Depressed Queer Pagan” title was represented by senior UNCW student Rory. They grew up in a Lutheran Christian church but found it to be too judgmental. Rory was also exploring their sexuality and gender identity, something that neither their church nor their parents accepted. This, along with other stress factors from studying abroad, led to them experiencing their major depressive episode.

Rory sought help for their mental health issues to help stabilize their mood. They also found college more accepting of queer identities than their church and ended up finding an identity that suited them. Finally, Rory found paganism through a Unitarian Universalism church (non-denominational for all religions) and found solace in its grounding nature and focus on earth.

“A lot of people don’t know about these identities, so I wanted to talk about them,” Rory said. “I’m pretty much an open book.”

The Human Library Project was started back in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000 as a project for people involved in the country’s Rosklide Festival and included colleagues Ronni and Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, and Christoffer Erichsen. The Human Library website describes the Human Library as “designed to build a positive framework that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.”

Mouna, Erichsen, and the Abergel brothers developed this project after a tragic event in 1993 when a mutual friend of the quartet was stabbed. The friend survived, but this violent act led the peers to start an organization called Stop the Violence.

Stop the Violence caught the attention of the 2000 Rosklide Festival director Leif Skov, who encouraged the organization to develop activities surrounding diversity to the festival. This soon led to the creation of the Human Library Project, which has since taken place at various public and college universities.

This is the first year the Human Library Project has taken place at UNCW.

“The point of this project is to promote inclusivity on campus,” Robinson said. “We all have differences, but they can be embraced if we take a moment to listen to someone else’s story.”