Innovators and creatives have the most interesting stories. Do you have a personal journey or unique startup story you’d like to share? We want to hear it. SU Libraries is hosting its annual “Living Library” event on Thursday, April 2, from noon to 5 p.m. in Bird Library. We’re looking for “living books”—volunteer storytellers who bring a variety of cultural backgrounds and life experiences, and who are willing to engage in 20-minute conversations with patrons in one-on-one or small-group settings. Applications are being accepted through March 6 via an online application form.
“This is a great opportunity to encourage the tradition of oral storytelling,” says David Seaman, University librarian and dean of the Syracuse University Libraries. “It also encourages learning different perspectives from our peers, promoting empathy and inclusion in a safe and supportive environment. In the past, our volunteers and patrons have described their conversations as rewarding, insightful and important.”
Last year, two LaunchPad entrepreneurs were “living books,” sharing their experiences on organ transplant and living with a disability. Emma Rothman ’21, a food studies major in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, discussed the faces of organ, tissue and cornea donation with readers at the Living Library. “I was hoping to explain the lifesaving connections between individual strangers and how those connections can save more than one life,” she says. “It was the connection from a stranger that saved my life because their family chose to donate their loved one’s organ.” Rothman received a heart transplant in 2011.
As a living book, Rothman’s unique viewpoint gives her the ability to educate and bring attention to a cause she’s passionate about at the same time. “I believe interaction is the foundation for growth,” she says. “Even though we are supposed to be the ones talking or teaching people about our ‘book,’ every time I have a conversation about organ, tissue and cornea donation, I learn something—whether it is about myself or how I can tell my story better, or even information about the transplant community.”
Jacob deHahn, ’19, an industrial and interaction design major in VPA’s School of design, and founder of Bowtie Boulevard, talked about inclusive design for people of all abilities, a topic of research that informed his 5th year design thesis. Born profoundly deaf, he is a unilateral cochlear implant user who proudly shares his personal story at conferences around the nation. His message was that a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from defying stigmas and dreaming big. deHahn shared that his passion as a designer drives him to make the world a more accessible place. “Having a disability makes you see the world in a different, unique way.”
Both Rothman and deHahn are Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellows, and Rothman is also a Hunter Brooks Watson Engagement Scholar.
Other recent topics have included stories from Native American, Asian, African and Middle Eastern cultures, as well as queer and biracial identities, and perspectives from military life, dealing with mental health issues, poverty and homelessness.