The Human Library landed on my Williams Bucket List when my first-year orientation leader Sam Jeong ’14 told me about this campus-wide event where people become books who can be “checked out” by readers. “If I were a Human Library book,” said Sam, “my title would be Shy Extrovert.”
I went to Williams’ Human Library website to get ready for this year’s event. The title Artist/Scientist caught my eye because I’m still wondering what to major in—and sorting through my own thoughts about passion versus practicality. I hoped I could ask that particular human book for some advice.
I arrived at Paresky Center at 1:00 pm. The library was well underway, and many human “books” were already checked out. Conversations were happening all over Paresky’s second floor. Human Library volunteers were running around, excited to help direct readers to books and find every matched pair a relatively quiet place to converse.
Before I could meet my “book,” I had to sign an agreement not to damage any book and to treat all books with dignity and kindness. I was then led upstairs, where I was surprised to find that my book was Williams sophomore Carly Schissel. I know Carly! She’s a good friend of a good friend, but I wouldn’t have guessed her to be both an artist and scientist.
I consulted my “library card” with useful question prompts to help start and spur conversation. I asked Carly how she balanced two passions in life. She answered that there are ups and downs in being an artist and a science researcher but that she is happiest balancing both rather than excluding one or the other.
Through the course of our conversation, we realized that besides enriching readers the Human Library also enlightens the “books,” who know that their readers are listening, and usually responding, as well.
In my experience the Human Library helps further the ideals of the Williams community by making a space for respectful, open-minded dialogue. You can’t skim a Human Library book like a last-minute reading for class. We make a more generous exchange because we believe in the ideal of enriching each other’s lives together.
–Mei M. Chan ’17