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2014-01-25 at 15:50

Sharing stories

By Matt Vis,
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Lt.-Col. Geoff Abthorpe knows sometimes the best stories aren’t found in the pages of a book.

More often these stories are present in people just like himself but aren’t always brought to the forefront.

The Thunder Bay Public Library is working to shine a light on some of these stories with their Human Library series.

The third edition of the series was held on Saturday at the Brodie Resource Library where attendees were able to check out eight human books with a wide array of experiences and backgrounds.

One of those books was Abthorpe, an Afghan War veteran who became enamoured with the idea once he learned about it online.

“I think the unique nature of this opportunity is fantastic with the ability to bring a diverse panel together and give average Thunder Bay citizens an opportunity to come on out and just ask questions and engage them in conversation to demystify the stigmas of their respective titles,” Abthorpe said.

Abthorpe, who served in combat in Afghanistan in 2006, said one of the questions he is asked most frequently is if he believes Canada’s contributions were worth the costs.

That inquiry has been becoming increasingly prevalent for him and he feels a responsibility to answer.

“The simple answer for that is absolutely. Whether it was the 148 Canadian lives and one diplomat that were given or the hundreds of millions of dollars spent, we have made a difference and the world is a better place 10 years later than what it was,” he said.

Library head of reference services Jesse Roberts said the spirit of the day is to allow participants to meet people from a different background and hear a first-hand account of their stories.

“It really gives people an opportunity to sit down and talk to somebody who has a very different lifestyle, career path or experience from them that they might never otherwise have an opportunity to meet,” Roberts said.

“The oral tradition is one of the strongest so how better to learn about some other part of the world than sit and have a conversation with somebody about it.”

The opportunity to meet with storytellers can be more rewarding than reading a book due to the ability to ask questions and steer the conversation in a direction controlled by a listener.

“What we’ve heard from the readers is they’ll have an idea in their head of where the conversation might go and they’ll have a question or two they’re really coming here intending to have a conversation about and then it ends up going off on a totally different path,” Roberts said.

“They wind up learning things and talking about common experiences they can share with these different people.”

Some of the other books available included Paralympian Robbi Weldon, Muslim-Canadian law student Ayoub Ansari, strongman Dallas Hogan and Dennis Franklin Cromarty student Nicole Ashley Quedent.

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