Psych4Schools returned to the University of Westminster in 2018 for the second year. Over 120 secondary students from four schools attended the event with their teachers. Participating schools were Beaconsfield High School, Kingsford Community School, Viliers High School and St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College.

A Human Library taster session was offered to the students as part of parallel workshop activities. The aim was to engage students in thinking about their own and others’ lived experiences – in this case, around memories for food, music and clothing. In a short space of time, students created a self-titled ‘book’ reflecting their memories, ideas and thoughts. After a short briefing on the history and guidelines of the Human Library, students borrowed their human ‘book’ and had conversations around the book title.

With only 5-10 minutes for everyone to engage in a respectful and courageous conversation, the students jumped right in! They quickly got on board with the concept, and the conversations flowed. We ended the sessions with students having more awareness of how the Human Library supports interaction, and how they can participate in a Human Library in the future. Feedback from the schools was that students enjoyed the experience, and wished they had more time and opportunities to experience this.

Psych4Schools with Hornsey School for Girls

The Human Library Project began its public engagement in 2017 with an in-house session at Hornsey School for Girls, London.

A Human Library was run for Year 9 pupils and their teachers as part of a psychology taster event on Wednesday 24 May 2017. Representatives from two leading career organisations, the Edge Foundation, and Education and Employers also took part. The theme was ‘body image’, and participants engaged in short conversations about stereotypes and media objectification, as well as society’s perceptions of the ‘ideal’ body.

One student’s book title read ‘Don’t Judge Me!’ reflecting a desire to see tolerance for difference in an inclusive society. Feedback from all participants was positive.

This was the first in-house public engagement opportunity for the Human Library Project. Its success has opened up discussions on collaborations with career organisations and other schools.

Equality Challenge Unit

Following this successful event, the Human Library Project visited staff at the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), with a Human Library experience following research presentations from Psychology Department staff Dr Kathryn Waddington and Deborah Husbands.

The audience included ECU Chief Executive and Disability Champion, David Ruebain. The ECU works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions across all four nations of the UK and in colleges in Scotland. As part of this remit, it is the awarding body for the Athena SWAN and the Race Equality charter marks, giving these to institutions that successfully meet the criteria.

ECU staff said of the event that it was the ‘highlight of the day’ and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They have been invited to partner with us for our next Human Library event on 18 October 2017 in recognition of Black History Month where they will participate as books and readers, and engage with staff and students at the University of Westminster.