Human Library held at Criss


Adam Abou-Nasr

Students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha had the chance to check out 12 “books” featured one day only at the third annual Human Library.

The Human Library – held March 16 – provided UNO readers with the opportunity to converse with diverse individuals for 20-30 minutes, according to UNO’s website. The human books shared their life stories in a one-on-one conversation with the readers.

Criss Library Reference Associate Claire Chamley originally came up with the idea to bring the Human Library to UNO after seeing the idea on Facebook.

“One of my friends at her college, they were doing it,” Chamley said. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ so I emailed my supervisor.”

Chamley served as the librarian for the Human Library. She was one of five people who planned and ran the event.
The event had some “agreements” printed on the back of the program and instructed participants to treat the human books with care and respect and not to tear out or bend their pages, spill food or beverages on them or hurt their dignity.

Participants were able to reserve a time ahead or the event, which could be made through the library website, but most of the event traffic came from walk-ins, according to Chamley.

“Reservations are good if people are writing a paper or they need extra credit for a class,” Chamley said, “but a lot of people just come in.”

UNO alumna Melissa Beagley chose to go the registration route and met with human book participant Niki Jordan at 5 p.m.

Jordan’s book was titled “Breathing Out: A Love Story (Tales of Getting Sh*t Done While Hugging the World).” The book’s description said Jordan is a “second generation blond-haired, blue-eyed Nichiren Buddhist” who, “after being diagnosed with a painful medical condition, is continuing her work in social justice advocacy while on wheels.”

Jordan is the only human book that has been available all three years of the event.

Beagley recommended a book new to the event this year: “A ‘Lost Boy’ Who Found His Way” by her husband, Randy Beagley.

When Randy Beagley was ten, his father introduced him to a second family just south of Salt Lake City. He spent the next decade of his life in “the largest polygamist religion in North America,” the book’s description said.

Other books available included “Modern Politics: How Things Really Work” by Eric Aspengren, “Growing Up Transgender” by Brooke McGrorty and “Made in Canada” by Michele Desmarais, Bill Arab, Jane Franklin, Jessica Urban and Lynette Leeseberg Stamler, five Canadians who found themselves in Omaha.

Event organizers begin reaching out to potential books three-to-four months before the event, Chamley said. Fifteen books were scheduled, but three had to cancel.

While the event took place, Tammi Owens, Outreach & Instruction librarian at Criss Library, ran to the human library’s front desk to announce the addition of a human book.

“We just added someone,” Owens said. “His name is Abdi Mohamed. He was born in Somalia and spent many, many years in a refugee camp in Kenya.”

Mohamed supports seven kids and his parents by working two jobs while studying full-time at UNO.

“He just walked over and was like, ‘I want to tell my story,’ and we were like, ‘Okay,’” Chamley said.

Part two will recap “A ‘Lost Boy’ Who Found His Way” by Randy Beagly.