Living Library 4.1.09

Written by David Green.

Awesome. Amazing. Fascinating. Eye-opening.

Morenci’s first venture into the Living Library concept drew rave reviews Saturday, both from those who served as living books and from those who came to Stair Public Library to check them out.

Library director Colleen Leddy is among those delighted with the event, but she had doubts leading up to the opening.

“I thought my books would bail,” she said. “I thought it would get to the night before and they would worry about their beliefs being attacked, their sexual orientation being attacked. It was such an unknown how this would go.”

She heard that a couple of her Books were very nervous before the event got underway Saturday, but once it began, they thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Twenty-seven individuals represented 26 book titles, ranging from Ex-Religious Cult Member to Punk Teen to Politician. Readers checked out the living books for conversations up to 30 minutes. One Reader made sure she borrowed all 26 books before she returned home to Toledo.

The idea behind the Living Library is to help dispel false impressions that people form—the stereotypes that often get in the way of interaction.

“It’s important learning how people’s lives are different from mine,” one Reader wrote following the event.

“It really opened my eyes,” wrote another.

Some Readers expressed surprise in seeing people they knew and discovering they were the Agnostic or the Conservative or the Alcoholic. That cleared away a few stereotypes right from the start. Others fell as the conversations began.

“They learned that stereotypes barely fit anyone they surround,” one Book said.

Several Books also spoke highly of the interaction, pointing out how the process helped clarify their own beliefs.

One Book mentioned the joy of being seen as a person rather than a label. Another welcomed the opportunity to articulate what’s important to him.

“I realized that there are more open-minded people in Morenci than I thought,” a Book stated.

One of the library aides helping Saturday admitted that when he sees a Middle Eastern person, he wonders if he might be carrying a bomb.

“I can’t believe I would even do this,” he said afterward.

He looks forward to organizing a similar event at college.

Books and readers alike hope the event makes a repeat performance and many people offered suggestions for new Book titles.

“Please, please do this again,” one participant wrote.

Leddy is interested in bringing it back, but planning was exhaustive and it won’t happen again soon. Art teacher Kym Ries suggested starting a Living Library Bookmobile and taking the show on the road to area festivals and libraries.

It’s a simple concept, but it’s going places.

• The following Books were represented at Morenci’s first Living Library: Agnostic, Alcoholic, Black, Blonde, Conservative, Cop, Environmentalist, Ex-Cult Member, Feminist, Gay Teen, Grease Monkey, Hillbilly, Home-schooler, Jehovah’s Witness, Jock, Lawyer, Liberal, Mentally Ill Person, Muslim, Old Lady, Pagan, Politician, Punk Teen, Teen Mom, Vegetarian and Witch.

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