On Friday, January 20th, when most everyone was focused on the Presidential Inauguration, The Human Library (a joint project of the Pawling Library and the Pawling Central School District), was having its own inauguration. At 11:30 a.m., volunteers in the Pawling community gathered at the Pawling Middle School to share in the launching of the community’s Human Library project, by sharing individual knowledge, life experiences, wisdom, and interests with members of the faculty and staff during a Professional Development day.
“The Human Library” is a project of the Human Library Organization, a Denmark-based group that describes itself on its website as “a worldwide movement for social change.” Its aim is described as that of providing “a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered” by the novel approach of having participants, playing the part of “readers,” interact one-on-one with presenters who, as “human books,” describe and discuss their own personal experiences. Human Library programs have been presented in more than seventy countries, usually in partnership with local organizers, and have explored a wide range of human experiences.
The Human Library project in the Pawling Community was organized and developed by Brian Avery, Director of the Pawling Public Library; Clair Magnesio, Librarian, Pawling Middle School and Pawling High School; Cynthia Darcy, Librarian, Pawling Elementary School; Janine Garrison, Literacy Coach, Pawling Elementary School; Inga Garbarino, Board of Education, Pawling Central School District; Kim Fontana, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Pawling Central School District; and Kate Lambert and Nicole Curcio, present and former Teen Librarians at Pawling Public Library.
Kim Fontana revealed that fifty-five “human book” participants were evenly divided between school district employees, students, and community members that included Board of Education members, Pawling Rotary members, and parents. There were “books” at all age ranges from relative youngsters (ages 16-25) up through community seniors (over age 65). Those who shared their stories included John Bellucci, Coleen Snow, Shannon Tyler-Garces, Jay Erickson, Abigail Reid, Elizabeth Parkinson, Brian Avery, Deborah van Doren, Gillian Rinaldo, Jeff Asher, Rose Hogan, Mark Marmolejo, Helen Callan and Debra Kirkhus, Erin Plati, Susan Stone, Richard Harshbarger, Caroline Bennett, Matthew Badia, Dawn Kershaw, Stacy Dumont, Scott Rice, Clair Magnesio, Matthew Hogan, Manya Bouteneff, Janine Garrison, Denise Nobile, Kate Lambert, Nancy Walsh, Amy Emke, Esther Kando Odescalchi, Joan Roberts, Julie Holland, MD, Edward Lynn, Theresa Ryan, Glen Freyer, Betty Smith, Natasha Panzer, Andra Sullivan, Chris Wood, Bill Ward, Rose Hogan, Nan Greenwood, Mark Barden, Susan Salomone, Inga Garbarino, Kim Fontana, Stephanie Recinos, Aishwarya Govindarajan, Samantha Palumbo, Joan Roberts, Allan Lipsky, Michelle Rivas, Philip van Buren, Jeremy Wolff, and Christine Walters.
“Human book” titles ran the gamut from ” Alien Invasion – They Are Already Among Us”, …a conversation about invasive plants and insects, to “I Once Ran Security For Evander Holyfield, …a personal tale about learning from whatever life sends your way”…and most everything of interest in between.
January 20th in Pawling was a day of learning and sharing. It was the true inaugural of a community project that is expected to resonate with Pawling’s educators, students, and members of the community for years to come. For more information about The Human Library project, log onto The Pawling Human Library web site at https://pcsdhumanlibrary.wordpress.com/ or contact Kim Fontana at Pawling Central School System.
*Photo of Event Participants by Cam Walters