Open Books

Krannert's Human Library a learning success

Purdue’s Krannert School hosted a conversation about breaking down biases at its first Human Library in November. Sponsored by the Women in Management program, the event aimed to fight prejudice and improve relations among those from Krannert, Purdue and the Lafayette/West Lafayette community.

The Human Library follows the model of a traditional library, but with a twist — “books” are people. “Readers” check out individuals for an open conversation where hard questions can be asked in a safe and intimate environment. Twenty-nine “human books” with titles such as Homeless, Transgender Person, and Christian Pastor were available for “reading” or discussion at the event. These “books” openly discussed the biases and stereotypes they face with nearly 90 event participants.

“The Human Library format can help strengthen dialogue among different cultures, fight bias and promote inclusion,” says Joy Dietz, director of the Women in Management program. “It provides a safe space for communication and, hopefully, better understanding of differences.”

Initiated by the Danish youth movement “Stop the Violence” in 2000, Human Library is a civic engagement tool designed to promote dialogue among community members to reduce biases and encourage understanding.

“The Human Library project teaches that managing people cannot be separated from managing and embracing diversity,” says Senem Guler, a master’s student in human resource management and the student leader of the Human Library event. “It provides a platform for conversations that include unconscious biases that may reduce life and career opportunities.”

Taya Flores, a reporter for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, was one of the books available to readers.

“The book title I chose was Oreo. It’s a term used to describe someone who is black on the outside and white on the inside,” Flores commented in Indiana Economic Digest. “I chose it because it is a stereotype I face as an educated black professional. By the end, I wasn’t weary of conversation and felt the gravitas of dialogue — even if it’s simply connecting with someone who sees herself in your ‘book’ or answering questions about your life and experiences with strangers who can’t really relate.”

Among the attendees was Deba Dutta, Purdue provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, who reflected on the event in his monthly “Message from the Provost.”

“The Human Library, sponsored by the Krannert Women in Management program, was meant to promote dialogue, reduce prejudice and enhance understanding,” wrote Dutta. “Given current events, it is vital that students, faculty and staff communicate openly and honestly.

“Thanks to the Krannert Women in Management for their leadership in bringing this program to our campus — the first U.S. business school and the first Big Ten university to participate in this important exchange. Diversity of both lived and work experience is vitally important to our Purdue community, and I marvel at the depth and breadth of our faculty talent.”