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Talk with a living book Tuesday at Briggs Library

A Purple Heart recipient. An individual coping with disabilities on the South Dakota State University campus. A Latino individual. Students from Iran, Uganda and Nigeria. A nontraditional student. To have a conversation with one or more of these interesting people come to Tuesday’s Living Library event, held 4-7 p.m. on the Hilton M. Briggs Library’s main level.

The event uses a library metaphor, but it is all about people. People with diverse backgrounds serve as living books. People interested in having meaningful conversations are readers.

Discussions are planned for 20 minutes at the top and bottom of each hour. Each conversation can include up to three people. Attendees can attend more than one session. The event is open to the public and people can drop in or they can reserve a time with a living book at

Connie Johnson, who is the coordinator for veterans services in Veterans Affairs, received a Purple Heart after serving as a specialist with the 101st Military Police Company in Iraq from February 2003 to January 2004.

“When you walk into our office, you might look at me and think because she works at Veterans Affairs, she must be a veteran but not really understand that not only am I a veteran, I’m also a combat veteran and I saw war, I saw death and all of these awful things,” she said. “During that time, I was also wounded while serving. Those are things you typically you don’t associate with women.

“I’m doing it for awareness for female combat veterans but I’m also doing it for awareness for the younger students who are struggling with the stereotypical combat veteran issues,” continued Johnson, noting she sought help for PTSD. “In working through that, I can see these younger students coming through who were exactly where I was. I see it now, whereas when I was going through it, I couldn’t. When you’re a combat veteran, especially when you have a traumatic event, it’s a lifelong healing process because you’re going to remember things like smells … it’s always going to be part of your life.”

Kanbi Knippling, who received two bachelor’s degrees from SDState in 2017, has had nearly 50 surgeries in her life and uses a wheelchair. She is now  pursuing a master’s degree in counseling and human development while also teaching classes in the College of Education and Human Sciences as a graduate teaching assistant.

“I am someone who is really, really open to having these types of discussions because I know it’s kind of difficult especially with disabilities,” Knippling said. “As someone who uses a wheelchair, it’s hard for people to know what to ask. They’re curious, and I totally get that. Growing up in a small state, you don’t always see people in wheelchairs in a lot of places. I like to take as many opportunities as I can to answer questions and get people thinking of a perspective they maybe hadn’t thought of before.

“Disability is a broad term and there are a lot of different conditions that fall under that umbrella. I’m always very careful to make sure people understand that I can only speak to my specific conditions and illnesses,” she continued. “On the broad side, I try to get people to think about physical accessibility for people in wheelchairs or internet accessibility or learning disabilities that a lot of students have on campus.”

For more on the event, visit