SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - Inspired by the conversational format of a Human Library, MCC Saskatchewan has created a unique learning experience for students and community groups interested in addressing issues of social justice and community development.
Participants have the opportunity to have real conversations with real people who challenge their way of thinking. This format encourages participants to have open and honest conversations that can lead to greater acceptance, tolerance and social cohesion in their community.
Learning through conversation
Earlier this month, grade 10 students from Rosthern Junior College had the chance to participate in a Living Library. Students had the opportunity to interact with individuals who are part of, or are working in, the justice system here in Saskatchewan.
Prior to coming, students brainstormed questions, looked through the bios of the "books" and selected four readings based on their personal curiosities. Each student group was given 15 to 20 minutes to flip through their "book" and take in that perspective.
MCC photo/Jana Al-Sagheer
In debriefing the experience, David Epp, Teacher and Vice-Principal at Rosthern Junior College, shared that students felt engaged, activated and energized by the discussions that they held, and that they appreciated the space to ask questions that felt important. One student shared:
Dear books, Thanks for your insight on justice and the reasons people do what they do. I appreciated the way we talked through the topics. All of your questions and content will have me thinking for a long time.
Building a library of "books"
MCC Saskatchewan works to build strong relationships with community partners who also strive towards peace and justice. One benefit of having strong relationships, is being able to use these connections to create spaces for meaningful interaction. By using the Living Library framework, facilitators were able to create a space where difficult questions were not only expected, but appreciated and answered.
Each "book" had their own unique lens by which they approached the subject of justice. "Books" that were selected to participate in this session included: a police officer, an individual presently serving time in the federal system, a law student, an artist working with youth in the core neighbourhood, representatives from MCC partners Micah Mission and Parkland Restorative Justice, and a community activist compelled by the invitation to "love your neighbour".
MCC photo/Jana Al-Sagheer
Where do we go from here
Our hope for this type of programming is that we continue to address some of the biases, stereotypes and assumptions that we all carry about each other, ultimately realizing that there are often more commonalities than differences. It is our hope that as we create safe spaces for individuals to engage in face-to-face dialogue, barriers are broken and communities are strengthened.
A special thanks to our “books” for sharing their experiences.
Stacey Swampy – Micah Mission
Michelle MacDonald – Law Student
Heather Driedger – Parkland restorative Justice
Jonna Reaume and Joanne – Elizabeth Fry Organization
Marcel Petit – Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op
Kaytelyn Suggelkow – Servant Partners
Stg. Keith Salzl – Saskatoon Police Service