A Conversation with a Book

OCC Campus Safety and Security Officer Rich Yung speaks with a student. He was the book, “A Career in Law Enforcement.”

Have you ever wished you had the opportunity to have a conversation with a police officer about what it’s like to work in law enforcement? Perhaps you’ve wanted to talk with someone about what it’s like be an immigrant in the United States. Or maybe you’ve wanted to discuss being LGBT in a straight world. Those interesting topics and many more were part of OCC’s Human Library event which was held Wednesday, October 4 on the third floor of the newly renovated Coulter Library.

The Human Library gave students the opportunity to sign out books for 30 minutes and ask questions. People from all walks of life played the role of “books” and shared their personal stories. The diverse set of book topics included “Turning ADHD into a Superpower,” “Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury” and “A Single Mom’s Adoption Journey.”

Haider Sakhizada

Haider Sakhizada was the book “Love Refugees for Who They Are.” He’s a native of Afghanistan who worked for the U.S. Army in Kabul as a combat translator, helping the military understand what was being said in the languages of Pashto and Farsi. Sakhizada and his family immigrated to the United States in 2008, entering in South Carolina. “It was very hostile and wasn’t as diverse as New York. When we could go to Walmart we would get things shouted at us.”

Sakhizada wound up reconnecting with a military officer he had worked with in Afghanistan and got a job with the U.S. Army traveling to military bases, teaching soldiers cultural awareness and language. The last base he worked at was Fort Drum (80 miles north of Syracuse) which is how he wound up settling in Syracuse. Today he works at Interfaith Works, manages its warehouse and talks with refugees about the process of assimilating into society. He enjoyed the opportunity to share his story at the Human Library. “It was so amazing. I was impressed with how diverse OCC is. The first person who talked to me was a student from Sudan. I was so happy to see her and talk about being refugees here.”

Pauline Lynch Shostack

OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill was the book, “A Day in the Life of a College President.” One of her readers was student Lucy Altaee. “I enjoyed talking to her. She really helped me,” said Altaee. “I’m a teacher in my home country. She told me how I could get my certificate (to teach here). She told me her door is always open if I ever need anything.”

Dr. Crabill was one of more than 50 books available to be signed out. The event started at 9 a.m. and concluded at 3 p.m. Library Chair Pauline Lynch Shostack coordinated the event and said over 200 readers checked out books. “Several students told us they enjoyed the opportunity to talk to someone they may not have a chance to talk to otherwise and our books said they enjoyed sharing their stories with others.”

As students finished reading their books they had the opportunity to reflect on their human library experience while filling out a questionnaire. Their comments show what a huge success the event was.

  • “The Human Library was very interesting and enlightening.”
  • “Keep it up! This is a great thing.”
  • “It was valuable to gain a different human perspective on life.”
  • “Please keep this going in future years!”
  • “It was a wonderful experience! I’m so glad I came.”
  • “It was great to be able to ask questions of experts one-on-one in various fields. I loved talking to the books.”
  • “I had a great human book with tons of knowledge and great feedback!”
  • “I loved it! Being able to ask a book questions was an amazing experience!”

Congratulations to the Coulter Library staff for making the 2017 Human Library another huge success!

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