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Check Out a Person? Coppell to Debut ‘Human Library'

It's designed to create dialogue and increase understanding of subjects that are often misunderstood.

A local library is thinking outside the box – and outside the books, for that matter – in an effort to bring stories to life in a whole new way.

The Cozby Library in Coppell will host a “Human Library" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 15.

For the event, people will be able to “check out” five people for 30-minute conversations – where no questions will be off-limits - designed to create dialogue and increase understanding of subjects that are often misunderstood.

The "human books" are volunteers and Coppell residents who will act as representatives of these communities: a refugee, a police officer, a Muslim, someone with a multi-ethnic background and the parents of a child with special needs.

“I think this is an awesome idea,” said Sharon Graybill, the "special needs parent."

Graybill hopes to have a frank and open conversation with others because she says she would've benefited from one decades ago.

“I needed to talk to people and there wasn’t as much information,” Graybill said. “And the best advice came from people who are living it, and who have lived it. I thought they understood.”

Nasr Boukadoum, the book of "ethnicity," was born in Algeria to a French mother and an Arab father. The petroleum engineer, who is now a U.S. citizen, said he seized the chance to participate in the Human Library because, throughout his adult life, he has had multiple versions of the conversations that he anticipates he will have during the session.

“It doesn’t faze me. What it does is it saddens me that we still live in such an environment,” Boukadoum said about the times he has experienced what he considers to be prejudice and cultural ignorance. “[When it happens] I do my best to educate the offender.”

Sgt. Kirk Smith of the Coppell Police Department will be the book of law enforcement.

“When I found out what this was about I jumped at the opportunity because I have things to say, and I want people to ask those questions,” said Sgt. Smith, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years. “I think that we are ready as law enforcement to answer those tough questions. And I think we have the answers that might show other people that we are human, too.”

Mohamed Elmougy, a Coppell business owner who has lived in the city for 25 years, will be a representative of Islam.

“I remember after 9/11 people were asking questions, saying, ‘We don’t know much about Islam and Muslims.’ And it was hard for them to accept them, so I am a true believer that knowledge leads to acceptance,” Elmougy said about why he volunteered for the project.

The fifth human book will be a refugee. She was not immediately available for comment.

The Human Library concept began in Denmark in 2000, and later spread to other libraries in Europe, according to a representative of the Cozby Library.

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