An exciting community event will be held next month when the Pawling Human Library Project returns for its second year on Friday, January 12. A joint effort between the Pawling Central School District and the Pawling Free Library, the venture presents a unique opportunity for community members and educators to join together and share their stories and life experiences.
The premise for the Human Library Project calls for volunteers to sign up to become “human books.” These volunteers will then be “checked out” by attendants who wish to hear the volunteer’s story. Each “book” will present to a small group of between three and five guests for twenty-minute sessions. “You’re sharing something about your life with an intimate group,” says Kim Fontana, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction at Pawling Central School District. “We have so much diversity with the types of stories that we’re going to tell. People will get to hear valuable stories about family, careers, and life.”
The event is open to the public, but pre-registration is required. When signing up for the event, guests will be able to select from the list of “human books” that they are interested in meeting. Guests can register in person at the Pawling Library or online beginning the first week in January at PawlingFreeLibrary.org.
Much like the library itself, there will be a wide array of subjects present at the Human Library Project. “Books” featured this year will include stories about hiking the Appalachian trail, learning sign language as an adult, growing up as a first-generation American after World War II, traveling the world by boat, overcoming postpartum depression and anxiety, and touring across France via bicycle. Guests can also hear personal accounts of an Irish teacher’s journey through the Middle East and eventual arrival in Pawling, a look at the profession of clowning, and the story of a small group of average citizens who challenged the New York State Housing Authority, and won. Among the volunteers are the author of 31 books, a critical-care nurse, a pottery instructor, the technical director of Consumer Reports Labs, and numerous community leaders, students, elected officials, and educators. “Libraries are all about connecting people with information, and we are really excited about the Pawling Human Library Project because it allows the community to discover what a wealth of information is sitting untapped within our own community,” says Brian Avery, Director of the Pawling Library.
The concept of the Human Library caught the attention of Kim Fontana two years ago. “The idea is most commonly conducted by larger libraries and big universities,” she says. “Pawling is unique in that way. We are excited to build this inclusive, unique learning environment.” Last winter’s event featured more than 50 “books.”
Pawling’s Human Library will be held on Friday, January 12 from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the Pawling Middle School. Interest from the public has already been growing since last year’s success. “It’s encouraging and exciting to see the Pawling community enriched by all the connections fostered through this program,” says Avery.
The Human Library or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, is a worldwide interactive learning project first developed in Copenhagen in 2000. (To learn more online visit HumanLibrary.org.) The Pawling Human Library Project has been recognized by the Human Library Organization in Denmark.