Becky Kimmel


Wednesday afternoon, Murray Library was filled with stories.

Stories from students, faculty and staff.

Stories that were told to other students, to other faculty and to other staff.

Each storyteller has an experience all their own; one they wanted to share, or one they felt others needed to hear.

Todd Allen, the brains behind this event, spoke to the books in his closing remarks.

“You might never hear or know the impact you had, but you did a mighty thing,” he said.

Here are the experiences, of readers and books alike, who participated in the Human Library event and left with much more than they came.


Reader: Faith Minnich Kjesbo

I’ve long believed and known storytelling to be one of the primary ways we develop greater empathy and understanding of ‘others,’ so to have the opportunity and privilege to hear diverse stories from a variety of our community members was compelling and moving.  

It helped confront and address some of the unconscious (often called “implicit”) bias that we all, as humans, hold within our perspectives and assumptions.  To not only hear, but then to be able to engage in brief dialogue and question-asking with others about their stories was significant and even sacred.

Reader: Kait Wolf

“I can say that the Human Library event was one of the most impactful events I’ve attended during my time at Messiah College. The power of hearing these people’s stories come to life through storytelling was a concept I had never experienced until yesterday, but one I think is so crucial in order to begin to understand people’s experiences and perspectives.

We have a campus community full of of stories to be heard, and I am thankful to have been able to hear a few of those yesterday.”

Reader: Kris Hansen-Kieffer

Yesterday I checked out 2 books from the human library.  I was unsure what it would be like to read a human book, but quickly found myself grateful for the people who showed courage and vulnerability in sharing their stories with a small group of readers.  Both stories that I “read” reflected the pain of rejection, the power of fear, the strength of love and the balm of redemption and healing.

My eyes were opened to the humanness of genocide…and the humanness of immigration.  I have read about and thought about both of these issues over the years…even formed opinions and shaped ways of thinking about them.  But, hearing human stories broadened and perhaps even complicated my more simplistic ideas and engaged my heart in thoughts and ideas that had previously been mostly contained to my head.

Book: Bernardo Michael

The Human Library event gave me a wonderful opportunity to discover the humanity I share with my neighbors on campus. I stayed throughout the event to share and listen to others — unplugged from our official positions, titles, and other institutional commitments and locations.  It was refreshing, inspiring, and powerful.

Book: Jason Polanksy

I think the human library project was a great way to allow people to share and listen to each other’s stories, so that we can better understand each other throughout the Messiah community. I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss my journey of being totally blind for the entirety of my life. I had a mix of students and faculty read my book.

I hope that the human library will be continued in future semesters.

Book: Gloria Igihozo

I think there is a liberating power to being vulnerable and sharing our stories and experiences (the good & the bad) with a room full of people who are open to listening to you. As a book, I felt supported and not judged for being different.

Stories are a powerful tool that can be used to empower or to oppress.

The Human library was an opportunity to challenge stereotypes, create a positive platform for discussions around a myriad of topics and accurately portray the diversity within the human race and the messiah community at large. Being a book challenges one to confront some of the realities they might have been struggling with, and reflect on how far they have come. It’s an enriching experience that has taught me more about myself, and about others.