UNO presents 5th Annual Human Library Learning Experience

UNO’s 2018 Human Library. Photo courtesy of

Ashley Morton

Have you ever encountered someone who was different from you or who has lived a different story than you? Did you find yourself wanting to ask them about their story or have questions about what makes them different? Now you can.

April 9 is the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s 5th Annual Human Library. The Human Library was started in Denmark in 2000. Since then, more than 70 countries have adopted the program. The idea is to open up communication in a safe environment about prejudice, stigmas and stereotyping. It’s simple: you register to check out a human ‘book’ and spend 20 to 30 minutes talking with them and learning about their unique life story.

Claire Chamley, a reference associate for the Criss Library, helped bring the event to UNO five years ago after seeing it on Facebook and presenting the idea to her supervisor. Thankfully, her supervisor was on board and the first Human Library came to life.

Since then, the event has seen a steady rate of interest and shows no signs of slowing down. UNO is currently the only school in the Nebraska University system to offer this event and was the first official organizer of the Human Library for the state of Nebraska.

Chamley said one of the main goals of starting this event at UNO was to“show students how many different walks of life are out there, and that even though it is easier to see differences, there can still be a lot of common ground.”

Gus Gustafson is one of this year’s ‘books.’ His story is one of perseverance and strength. Gustafson became an amputee at 9-years-old after a farming accident took his right arm and crushed his right leg. But he didn’t let that stop him.

“I went on to be Honorable Mention All-State in Nebraska in basketball and walked on to play college basketball at the University of Nebraska-Kearney where I had three knee operations that ended my athletic career,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson struggled to find his path briefly following the end of his athletic career, but soon discovered his passion: “encourage and challenge people to be the best that they can be at whatever they are doing.”

He comes to this event with the hope that by sharing his story, he can help others learn to “turn setbacks into comebacks.”

‘Books’ and ‘readers’ benefit from this event. After speaking with individuals after each year’s event, Chamley said often times the event is therapeutic for those involved.

“I have heard from many that (the event) helped them with some different issues they were going through at the time. It helped them learn about a new part of themselves; it helped them become more confident in themselves,” Chamley said. “I knew the event would have an impact, but the amount and depth of impact it has, had surpassed what I expected…(it) makes all the work that goes into planning an event of this size worth it.”

Registration for the event began March 28. You must register to sit down and speak with one of the ‘books’ and up to four people can sign up for the same one. Information about the Human Library and how to sign up is available on the Criss Library’s website, to register visit the link here.