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OU to hold collaborative 'Human Library' event at Bizzell Memorial Library

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Human Library

OU will host its first "Human Library" event on Nov. 22. Human libraries offer an opportunity for people to engage with others and ask questions about diverse experiences.

Visitors to Bizzell Memorial Library can check out books any day, but on Nov. 22 the books will come alive — literally.

OU’s first "Human Library" event will give community members the opportunity to “borrow” other people with diverse experiences and ask questions they wouldn’t normally get to ask. Human book topics will range from gender identity and immigration to mental health and national identity, said Youssef Kamel, an international area studies and religious studies senior and president of the International Advisory Committee.

Anyone can sign up to be a “book” through an online application. They also get to choose their own titles and what topics they want to represent.

“Of course, a lot of people (have) very intersectional personalities,” Kamel said. “So they can talk about multiple things. They get to choose how to frame it, they get to choose what to say, and so on.”

Visitors to the human library can “check out” different human books and ask respectful questions about the topic they have never had the opportunity to ask, Kamel said.

The event is a collaboration between the International Advisory Committee, the College of International Studies, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and OU Libraries. The first human library event in Oklahoma was held in Tulsa this year, but this is the first time for the event to come to the Oklahoma City area, Kamel said.

Kamel said the OU community has gone through a lot over the past several semesters and has a lot to work on. He hopes the human library will allow people to work through their misconceptions and stereotypes.

“It's very hard to not listen to another person who's sitting right in front of you,” Kamel said.

The human library idea originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2000 and has been presented in about 80 countries since then, according to the Human Library website.

Kamel said he hopes OU will continue the human library event after he graduates next year.

“A friend of mine and I have been wanting to do this since our freshman year. We're seniors now,” Kamel said. “And this is something that we've been kind of hoping to do for a very long time.”

Applications to be a human library book are open until Nov. 13. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 22 in the Bizzell Memorial Library.

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