Campus Life

Human Library event shares conversations, opens perspectives

The phrase ‘Don't judge a book by its cover’ will mean even more on Feb. 15

Penn State's first Human Library on Feb. 15 will bring together readers who can loan human books in group conversations to discuss differences and challenge stereotypes and prejudices in a safe, supportive environment. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY, Pa. — When Penn State’s first "Human Library" opens for loans on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at University Park’s Pattee Library and Paterno Library, it’s the participants who will be lending an ear to the stories that “human books” have to share, and difficult questions will be expected, appreciated and answered.

“At a Human Library event, people who register to participate will get to ‘loan’ a human book, or the time of a person who may be different from them — in appearance, beliefs, identity, life circumstances,” Megan Gilpin, Penn State University Libraries’ outreach coordinator for Library Learning Services, said. “Each of our human books has volunteered to discuss their experiences and answer others’ honest, curious questions in a group setting and a supportive, safe environment, in an effort to help others challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.”

Group conversation “checkouts” of 45 minutes each will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. in Pattee Library and Paterno Library classrooms. A 6 p.m. reception in Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library, will be followed by a 7 p.m. “Bestsellers Panel” discussion with a synopsis of several books, moderated by WPSU personality Patty Satalia in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, and live-streamed to all Penn State faculty, staff and students University-wide, via Penn State login, on Mediasite Live

Interested participants can read human book “synopses” and sign up for a time slot now at

The Human Library concept originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, in spring 2000 and has become a worldwide movement for social change. The goal of a Human Library is to help others learn to appreciate others’ differences, and understand social barriers and privilege, while listening and relating to their experiences. Today, Human Library events have been held in more than 70 countries.

The Penn State Human Library is sponsored by the University Libraries in cooperation with the Adult Learner Programs and Services, Center for Women Students, Counseling and Psychological Services, LGBTQA Student Resource Center, Multicultural Resource Center, Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Penn State Hillel, Schreyer Honors College and the University Office of Global Programs.

For more information about this event, or for questions about accommodations and the physical access provided, contact Megan Gilpin at 814-867-0069 or in advance of your visit.

Last Updated February 14, 2017