News, events, and articles for the Catalyst Network of Communities.

A Teen's Reflections on Volunteering at Human Library

A Teen's Reflections on Volunteering at Human Library
by Alison Leocadio

I didn't know what to expect while walking through the automatic doors of the library. I was volunteering for the Human Library event on May 31st. I was nervous and anxious, mainly because this was my first time volunteering at an event like this. My uncle told me that I would be interacting with people, asking how they were, and making sure they were alright. I happen to be a somewhat shy, reserved person who doesn't socialize well with strangers and hearing about this event made my anxiety spike. How long would this be? Would I be able to do something else? Can I just skip this and not go? However, I realized that I needed to go because I’d probably regret it if I didn't.

Being alongside my father made going to this event easier. He sort of eased the anxiety I’d been feeling on the way there and I was somewhat comfortable being there. We arrived at the room where the event would take place and helped set up. At the end of set up, I was already sweating and hot. I don’t know if it was nerves or if the room itself was hot but I was sweating and it’d only been twenty minutes since I’d been there. There was still about an hour or so remaining until people would start arriving. To kill time, my father and I sat down and conversed about random topics. It was about lunchtime so we went inside a room to eat sandwiches and soon enough it was time for the event to start.

Clutching my clipboard, I stood by and waited for a person to escort to one of my stations. Sure enough, someone came and checked out one of the books I was monitoring. I escorted them to the station and wrote down their name and check out time on my sheet. For the first few minutes, I thought everything would be alright and chill. I was wrong. Things started getting hectic with keeping track of check out times for each reader in my section and making sure to check them back in when their time was up. My brain was so focused on keeping time that I forgot to introduce the readers to the books! I didn't interact with the readers as much but I did escort them to their books. That counts as some sort of interaction with the reader, right?

One great thing about being focused on my responsibilities was that time passed by very quickly. I expected that day to be very long but honestly it went by in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it, it was already time to wrap things up. I noticed that there were no more check outs and it was almost 4:00pm. The event came to a close and I was relieved that it was over. My shoulders were stiff, my brain was pounding, and my eyes ached. Even though I was burned out by the end of the day, I actually really enjoyed volunteering at this event. I loved how fast-paced it was and that I was kept busy all the time. I’m also happy to say that I’d prefer volunteering at an event like this again rather than the previous event I volunteered at raking weeds in the scorching sun. I’m grateful that I came to this event and I look forward to volunteering at events like this in the future. 

**To see more photos from the Human Library event, go to the page here.

Reflections on the Human Library

Reflections on the Human Library
by Justin Hall

My experience at the human library event on May 31st was one that began with extreme intrigue as it was the first time I had been involved with such an event.  I was asked to volunteer as a "monitor" for the event which meant that I helped escort "Readers" to the "Human Books." This gave me the opportunity to view the interactions between book and reader from the outside looking in. As both readers and books began showing up for the event, it was difficult to tell one from the other as the books didn't necessarily have any discernible characteristics that made them stand out from the crowd. This only peaked my interest further. 

As readers came in and received their “library card” (a name tag), they were able to enter a separate room where the book titles were posted, along with short summaries. Each book had a unique story, and it was interesting to see the intrigue on the readers' faces as they read the summaries.

Teddy Breceda shares his story with a Reader at the Human Library. Photo by Tracie Rodriguez.

Among the many interesting books, I particularly noticed two popular human books that day. Teddy Breceda had a book title of "Forever Changes." He is transgendered and transitioned from female to male. I could tell that many readers had lots of questions for him.

Anita Grant had the catchy book title of “I’m So Glad I Didn’t Die.” She talked to people about her background growing up in Harlem, NY having lived through poverty, incest, and teen pregnancy. She's now a successful woman in her 70's and serves as a counselor and a minister.

There were readers of all ages, races, and cultures who showed up, and it was interesting to me that while many had a particular book they were interested in, most wanted the chance to meet all of the books while they were there. It was amazing to see the connections that were forming between reader and book. Teddy seemed to attract a lot of older women readers. Anita, an older woman who may have had the longest and diverse list of readers, had many young readers that were very interested in her story.

Anita Grant shares her story with a Reader at the Human Library event. Photo by Tracie Rodriguez.

With the majority of books and readers being from the Long Beach area, I felt like that really promoted a sense of understanding as the human books were instantly able to connect on several levels and break down many potential barriers right away. Not only were readers able to develop a more realistic view of those who are cloaked in stereotypes, but it seemed like the books were able to gain more understanding of how others view them, as well as overcome any ignorance by answering the many questions that readers had for them.

**To see more photos from the Human Library event, go to the page here.