Living Words

By Hywania Thompson

Like the phrase “My life is an open book,” Real Life Library is a library in real life. The “books” are the storytellers and their “readers” are the interactive participants. Attendees can choose which books they “check out.”

In groups of four or five, books share their stories as readers listen on. At certain times, everyone comes together for a “book review,” where guests share how the stories impacted them.

Jennifer Smith and Garrett Lee co-founded Real Life Library in fall 2016. Smith says they were both interested in developing a human-centered library. The project is coordinated by Lee’s organization We Help One Another.

Volunteer Erik Beach went to an installment in 2017, then decided to get more involved. “Real Life Library is a nice way to be more engaged, not only with the storyteller but with other people in attendance,” he says. Smith says it gives people a real feeling of connection. And according to Lee, Real Life Library is designed to elevate wellbeing in the community. He says “Ultimately, we are breaking down stigma and prejudice and building empathy and relationships.”

The next Real Life Library will be hosted in collaboration with the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on Nov. 11.

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