An Innovative Program With Promise

Mar 6, 2014 by

human_library_logoAn Innovative Program With Promise

Delia Stafford, President & CEO Haberman Foundation.

Recently, I attended the Community College Conference for members of NACCTEP in Anaheim, California. The Haberman Foundation provided the opening session and I was able to review the work of Dr. Haberman as well as the work of the Haberman Educational Foundation.

The Community Colleges are playing a major role in the teacher education programs across the states and beyond. The Glendale Community College Human Library Project was new and a thrilling, innovative conference session regarding The Human Library. The session was a fascinating presentation for the attendees, as very few had ever heard of the Human Library as a project for educators. The idea, so new to many educators, has moved into a global perspective with the objective to change the thinking of adults, as well as the children and youth in our schools.

Here is the story told during the session from Glendale Community College.

The Human Library Project at Glendale Community College- Arizona, is a dynamic learning opportunity that works much like a traditional library except the books are people confronted with stereotypes and prejudices and willing to lead a discussion about social exclusion. The project has been gaining recognition for its unique ability to infuse curriculum into an engaging event that creates safe space for students and community members to practice civic dialogue.

The Human Library concept originated in Denmark and its appeal has since spread all over the world. It is part of a global movement that began with young adults in Copenhagen who were determined to stop the violence in their community.  To learn more about the global movement visit humanlibrary.org

The GCC project differentiates itself slightly from the Danish model because of its academic twist, though we still uphold the basic tenets required to be part of the global movement. The GCC library targeted three specific learning priorities: to enrich public life and public discourse on our campus and in our learning communities; to promote a safe educational exploration of prejudices, stereotypes, cultural diversity in union with our courses and course curriculum; and to advance students’ understanding of how they can think more critically about these issues while advocating greater civic engagement in our county and state democratic processes.

The GCC Human Library Project is a collaborative effort between faculty and staff to bring community members (“books”) face to face with students (“readers”) for open, honest communication in 30-45 minute sessions. The project focused on local community needs and required students to evaluate and analyze issues using academic materials like a pre-test that employed the Implicit Bias Association Test and follow up assignments such as researching community resources that support various members of our society like refugees, homeless, domestic violence etc. Also, because it uses democratic process and well-established rules, students learned a lively way to have equitable and active discussions. Finally these infused curriculum techniques educated the students on ways to examine their own ethical frames and decision making processes.

Team work was critical for the organization of this project. For a Human Library in an academic setting, in addition to securing books and readers, it is recommend that the following key roles be filled. Included in parentheses are the names of the individuals on the Glendale Community College (GCC) team who played that role:

Book Recruiter (Heather Merrill)
Faculty & Student Assessment Coordinator (Kirt Shineman)
Student Team Facilitator (Jennifer Lane)
Librarian Lead (Dede Elrobeh)
Hosting & Logistics Lead/Treasurer (Brenda Nelson)
Booking & Data Lead (Christine Moore, Meghan Kennedy)
Marketing and Media PR (Heidi Capriotti)

Human Libraries in general are volunteer based and do not require much money. The GCC Human Library had a budget of $3,000.00, having received funding in the form of small grants. The funds were used to purchase t-shirts for the Books and volunteers, lunch and refreshments, thank you gifts, a short-term subscription to the online scheduling system, and printing.

 

A very short documentary film about the GCC Human Library project is available at our college website: http://www2.gccaz.edu/arts-culture/human-library as well as any other materials or websites that instructors and community members might be able to use join the global movement and host their own Human Library.

Heather Merrill
Teacher Education Faculty
Glendale Community College
Heather.merrill@gccaz.edu
623-845-3786

On April 10, 2013 the Human Library at GCC received the Maricopa Diversity Advisory Council’s (DAC) Award of Excellence on behalf of Glendale Community College.

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