If you go

What: Living Libraries event

When: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Norlin Library Commons

Cost: Free

More info: colorado.edu/libraries/2019/02/27/cu-living-library-march-6-7

 

At the University of Colorado's Norlin Library on Wednesday afternoon, Tianna Escobede was a book.

She didn't transform into a stack of pulp with a binding. Instead, she spoke her story to other students who came as readers for the second annual "Living Libraries" event.

The reader guidelines for the event explained that, in classes, students are taught to think critically. But for those few hours in the library, they would learn how to listen to others with empathy and kindness.

Escobede, a junior studying English and creative writing, split her "book" into sections, and the readers chose the one on forgiveness.

When Escobede was little, her dad was her hero. But, as she grew older, she saw the fault lines in her parents' relationship and became angry with him for his 20-year pattern of leaving, yelling and abusing substances to cope.

As a first-generation college student, Escobede has felt great pressure to do well and also take care of her younger siblings. While her father no longer lives with them, she is trying to be supportive of him and his recovery.


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She said she realized she just wants her father to be healthy and stable. She thinks about him overdosing, and said she's determined not to have regrets about helping him.

"It feels very scary to see your father cry ... He needs help, he can't do it by himself. The point is, we need to be there for him," she said.

Lizzie Weiler, a freshman studying journalism, said she is the youngest of four siblings and appreciates the role Escobede plays as a big sister. Weiler said she came to the event for a class, but also loves hearing stories about people's lives.

University of Colorado Ph.D. student Chu Paing is magnified in the eyeglasses of freshman Rohan Veeranki while sharing personal stories and talking about
University of Colorado Ph.D. student Chu Paing is magnified in the eyeglasses of freshman Rohan Veeranki while sharing personal stories and talking about social issues at Wednesday's "Living Library" event. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

The Living Libraries event, which is funded in part by an Implementation of Multicultural Perspectives and Approaches in Research and Teaching (IMPART) grant, is meant to provide space for stories that often go untold.

"We recognize that there are stories that are not included in our collection, or that are overlooked," said Juleah Swanson, head of acquisition services for the library.

Last year the event drew more than 60 attendees to read 11 "books." This year, 12 people offered their stories, on topics ranging from sexism to mental health to race.

"Last year, the books said it's really empowering for them to share their stories," Swanson said. "The process of sharing is empowering."

The idea for the event came from a project called "The Human Library," which began in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the desire to provide more diversity at the library.

The library has been exhibiting work by people within the campus community and beyond, holding events such as a talent show for international students, and using crowdsourcing models to let the broader population help pick materials, said Lindsay Roberts, an education librarian.

"It's really important to hear counter-stories," meaning stories that aren't normally dominant in mainstream culture, Roberts said. "It's addressing the imbalance in power in our libraries and on campus."

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, mstamour@prairiemountainmedia.com