“I’ve lost a book,” the library volunteer brushed by, with mild urgency. “Anyone seen number 52?”
Number 52 was due to be checked out at precisely 3 p.m., and was nowhere to be found.
Complicating matters (and causing confusion, for those uninitiated in the jargon of Human Library Rhode Island), was the fact that number 52 is a human “book,” fully ambulatory, and liable to be anywhere in the Global Heritage Hall at Roger Williams University, where the event was held this past Sunday, March 30.
Human books are individuals with compelling personal narratives to share; Rhode Islanders with a broad variety of backgrounds and experiences, their stories encapsulated in briefs ranging from “Refugee,” “Ex-felon,” “A Gay Catholic,” and “Professional Tattooer.” The individuals’ names are not revealed in the catalog.
In its second year, Human Library Rhode Island featured 48 “books” — up from 39 last year. Patrons checked in and perused catalogs of bios describing each “book,” and signed up for 15 minute loan periods, during which time patrons could have an open and respectful conversation with their borrowed “book.”
The Rhode Island event was the brainchild of Simmons Doctoral candidate Amy Greer, who participated in a Human Library several years ago (her title was something on the order of “Why the heck would someone get a PhD in Library Science?”) Greer, a Providence resident, felt the Human Library model would be perfect for Rhode Island.
“What makes Rhode Island so special is how surprisingly diverse it is,” Greer says. “There is power in our diversity and by talking to each other and coming together, we strengthen our community and our state.”
After chairing the event last year, Greer passed the baton to co-chairwomen Joyce May of East Providence’s Weaver Library, and Janet Kovach-Fuentes, of GrantSpire Consulting.
Despite the torrential downpours, flooding, and road closures of the day, organizers, patrons, volunteers and “books” (including number 52, who had emerged from the restroom just in time for his scheduled circulation appointment) enjoyed a very successful event.
“The books are great people,” said May. “And people who like books are great people. It’s a wonderful event.”