Published in the December 19, 2018 – January 1, 2019

Alexis Munson

During the summer of 2018, I had an internship at the Morgan Hill Library as a part of a grant that included libraries from across the country.

The grant was written to introduce students like myself to librarianship, and we were charged with creating a project that benefited the library and the community. All of the interns participating in the grant were sent to Washington, D.C., to discuss potential project ideas and learn about programs that are held in different libraries.

After learning about the Human Library, an event where people are the “books” to be checked out for short conversations with patrons about their experiences, I decided that would be the focus of my project. I was especially interested in this particular program because I thought it was an excellent way to covertly address the commonality of issues concerning racism and discrimination.

As a teen living in Morgan Hill I have observed political and racial divisions in our community. This division was strikingly apparent after a Hispanic student brought a knife to a small carnival the local middle school hosts every year. There were police officers brought in from two neighboring cities to help disperse crowds and the carnival was shut down for the entire weekend without even making it through the first night.

Several participants in the Human Library program developed by Alexis Munson.
Photo by Heather Geddes

Our city’s neighborhood watch Facebook page was riddled with comments regarding how the student’s race was related to his actions and that kids such as him do not belong here. As a young woman of color, those comments were shocking — not surprising — to see coming from adults, and I wished to create a program that would work to change their opinions of those who they may not necessarily understand or interact with.

A majority of my internship was spent behind the computer. I wrote dozens of emails that ranged from initial outreach to final confirmations of those who agreed to participate. With the help of the amazing staff, I was able to recruit a man who suffered from schizophrenia, a Japanese man who was interned, a World War II veteran, and nine others to serve as “books.”

I was extremely nervous, even after everyone confirmed, that no one would show up. But we had a great turn out and all the patrons who attended said the event was a wonderful learning experience and that it opened their eyes to others’ experiences. Patrons were really inspired by the people they spoke to and were able to use their conversations at the time to reflect on how they impact others. I was overjoyed by the positive responses and by how many people wanted to see another Human Library in Morgan Hill.

In addition to planning this event, I helped with the library’s free lunch program by serving food or offering crafts for the attending children. I was able to practice the Spanish I learned in school when I helped with the Lotería — Spanish bingo — program. I, along with the rest of the interns, traveled to Chicago in September to share our experiences in the library and to present about our projects.

I am so grateful for this experience and I hope that more students are able to take advantage of this opportunity.

Alexis Munson is a senior at Live Oak High School. She plays basketball for the school and is involved in a number of clubs. She was also recently named the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce 2019 Student of the Year.

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