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Lives Speak Volumes

Some of the first group of "Open Book" students, faculty and staff met to talk about their lives in the Human Library. (Photo by Gianluca Russo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 5, 2018) — As we walk through campus, we pass thousands of students and faculty members, each with unique stories. Yet, more often than not, we aren’t presented with the opportunity to dig into their backgrounds while learning what has inspired them to pursue their dreams.

Last Tuesday, that all changed when the first installment of the Human Library was brought to UAlbany.

“We want students to forge a connection with the faculty and staff that we have on campus,” said Linda Krzykowski, UAlbany assistant vice provost. “These are amazing people who have amazing stories to tell, and we want our students to connect. From an educational standpoint, we also want students to learn from the human experience stories that they’re going to hear.”

Krzykowski first heard of the Human Library, which originated in Denmark in 2000, at a conference and knew it would be a great event for UAlbany to host. Essentially, the Human Library brings together students and faculty to tell their stories in small groups of attendees. The speakers are referred to as “books” — since they are, figuratively, opening their pages for all to read.

“This is not storytelling,” said Krzykowski. “It’s not designed to have you just sit back and passively hear something. It’s designed to have small groups where you’re really asking questions, you’re really learning from conversation and from dialogue.”

Among the many “books” that were present at the Human Library was UAlbany senior Souhimbou Doh Kone (who goes by Ebu), who told his story of immigrating to the United States from the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire in 2011.

“I think it’s awesome that Ebu is a student here and he has that type of story,” said Tara Belinsky, a senior communications major. “To be able to know that I’m among these types of people at UAlbany just makes this opportunity of going to school here that much better. And I think that if we take the time to know the people that we surround ourselves with, we’ll learn a lot more about the type of society we’re in.”

She added, “I’m a student athlete here so I’m surrounded by a lot of international students, and I can only imagine the kind of transition that they have to go through, coming from Germany, Jamaica, The Virgin Islands — anywhere like that.”

Isis Badillo, a freshman social work major, attended the session with Vivien Ng, professor of Women’s Studies, whose “book” was titled "Still Under Construction."

“I think the experience of the Human Library is so interesting,” said Badillo. “It was great to hear Professor Ng's feedback and what she had to offer. I especially liked it because she is a member of our community, so I definitely appreciated that.”

Both Belinsky and Badillo praised the experience of the Human Library for bringing them closer to their fellow students and faculty members while inspiring them to always pursue their passions.

“The main thing I took away would definitely be to not be afraid of failure and if you have an inspiration, chase it,” Badillo said.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
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