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PBC Library

The NAU library website for the Phoenix Biomedical Campus Library

Living Library

The 2021 PBC Living Library will be hosted entirely online!

A picture of the 2021 living library flyer


 The Living Library 

Welcome to the landing page for the PBC Living Library program! The Living Library is a special program that empowers people who have experienced health disparities and systemic oppression in the American healthcare system.

We affirm the narratives of our patients and community members who have felt discrimination because of how they identify, and we provide a place for these same individuals to tell their stories in a safe and inviting space. 

We call these brave storytellers books

And because a library needs people to read its books, we invite current and future health professionals to join us as readers

For the most part, our readers are students, faculty, and staff of the NAU CHHS programs in Phoenix, Arizona. Our readers bravely join in conversation with our books, sharing stories, and learning how health disparities impact their lives, and how those same disparities can be reduced or eliminated.

On the following tabs, you will learn more about what it means to be a book, a reader, and a living library volunteer. You will also find information about our program sponsors. If you have any questions, or if you'd like to help, please contact:

PBC Living Library Sponsors
A picture of the NAU logo    


Who can be a book?

At the PBC Living Library, our books are individuals who have experienced harm or discrimination in healthcare, based on how they identify. Some of us call that harm, healthcare disparities. Basically, healthcare disparities are inequities in entrenched in our healthcare system. These inequities derive from sexism, racism, homophobia + transphobia, immigration status, able-bodiedness, age, education, and class (among other social identities). Many books will have experienced stacked inequities because they belong to more than one underserved identity. 

A lot of the books at the Living Library are people who have experienced great difficulty, trauma, and adversity in their healthcare. For that reason, we recognize that persons who volunteer their time and energy to be books are empowering themselves and their communities. We recognize that they are engaging in emotional labor, and we believe that doing so will help benefit others who are in situations similar to themselves. We affirm their experiences, and we believe their experiences.

How can I be a book?

First, you want to read through the section above, and decide 1) that you meet the criteria for our program, and 2) that you are willing to engage in difficult conversation. We promise that we will have persons available all day to help provide counseling and emotional support. Even so, we understand that we are asking books to relive difficult experiences, and we want to acknowledge that.

Second, you'll want to read through and fill out the registration form on this page. It will provide more details about logistics, and how the program is structured.

What does a book bio look like?

Here's an example that books might follow when considering how they would "title" themselves:

This is a picture of a sample book title from a person with PTSD

Register to be a book:

Who gets to be a reader?

Anybody! For the most part, our readers are students at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus; however, faculty, staff, and community members are also welcome to join. 

BTW: if you're unsure what a reader is, or does, here's a brief explanation...readers are curious, human-centered persons who want to meet and learn from our books, all of whom have experienced difficulties with healthcare due in part to how they identify. Readers might want to get to know someone who belongs to community of people that the reader hasn't been around. Readers might also want to meet with books who have had experiences that they also share. Really, it's up to our readers who they choose to "check out". That said, this event is designed as an opportunity to challenge our own biases and privilege, and really come to terms with the many ways that discrimination can lead to harm for our patients and our communities.

How does reading a book work?

First, many of our readers will want to reserve a book beforehand. Our books all have titles and short "book covers" that explain to us how they want to be identified. Starting approximately 1 month before the Living Library program, all of the book info will go live in Eventbrite. At that point, we'll post a link on this page, where people can go to make selections.

What if I don't register beforehand?

That's okay! Anybody can show up to check out a book on the day of the Living Library. Once you arrive, we will have a fancy event booth set up with book titles, covers, and info about availability. Most book interactions will be approximately 20 minutes, and in some cases, more than one reader at a time can visit with a book. Remember though, if a book is "checked out", then you'll need to wait for them to become available, or choose from one of the many other amazing people who have given up their time to come and talk with us.

What should I talk about with a book?

There are a few rules to keep in mind when you sit down with a book.

  • Remember that, just like a real book, our human books will set the narrative; let them go at their own pace
  • It's okay to ask tough questions! Our books are aware that you will have questions, and are prepared to discuss them
    • However! Please keep in mind that we are not here to discriminate, harass, or question the truth of someone's narrative. We are here to learn, and to bravely question our own biases through our conversations with the human books

Here are a few questions you might ask a book:

  • When (or how old were you) did you become aware of the stereotypes/prejudice towards you?
  • What resources have you used to take control over your own health?
  • What has made discrimination in medicine and healthcare worse for you? (legislations, mass media, etc.)
  • How has your community been there for you when medical providers have not? Vice versa?
  • What kind of words and actions can healthcare providers use to show you dignity?
  • Call to action: what can we do after we leave today to help reduce discrimination for persons in situations similar to your own? 

Check out our question bank for even more ideas!

Finally, check out this video from Human Library Vancouver to get some insight into the typical exchange between a book and a reader:


 How can I be a librarian for a day? 

Volunteers at the PBC Living Library can help out in a number of ways! Like books, we do request that all volunteers be at least 18 years old on the day of the program. Volunteers should also be available all day from 8:30AM - 2:30PM if at all possible. Additionally, we will have one in-person and/or online training for volunteers to walk them through the process in mid-March. We will provide food and parking; here's what you can do:

  • usher people around campus
  • check-in and check-out "books" to readers
  • sign in students who are coming for class
  • provide grief counseling and support***

***we request that anybody who wants to help give emotional support be: 1) a credentialed therapist or counselor, 2) a graduate student in a behavioral health discipline does this work? 

For the most part, the Living Library works very similarly to a traditional library; however,our living books are just that: living! 

Other than that, this is how it works:

On the day of the Living Library, our books will be situated in online Zoom rooms waiting to tell their stories:

A picture of a person sitting at a deskA picture of a pen and paperA picture of two people talking

We will have a "congregation area" or major zoom room set up as a shared event space, where we will begin each session, explain the rules, and usher readers to their Zoom rooms. Readers will also check in here. In fact, if they are attending for a class, this is where they will sign in for class! Readers will have already selected a book online, or if they haven't, they can select an "available" book from our book display at the circulation desk. Displays will have book titles and covers for readers to peruse before making a decision.

A picture of a person thinkingA picture of books on a shelfa picture of a person with an idea

Once a book has been selected, the reader or group of readers will be ushered to that book's zoom room, where they can engage in conversation, listening to the book's story, asking questions, and maybe sharing stories of their own. Many of our readers may have assignments that they need to complete for class. If this is the case, they will likely be writing down notes as they talk. Additionally, if at anytime someone would like to speak with a counselor, there will be people available at-hand to help.