The University of Westminster’s Human Library Project, which took place on Wednesday 17 October, has enabled staff and students to take part in debates tackling prejudice as part of Black History Month.

The University of Westminster Human Library Project, launched in October 2015, is a worldwide initiative, providing a safe space for people to connect and engage in challenging and respectful conversations about their experiences.

On Wednesday 17 October, the Human Library Project recognised Black History Month for the third year in a row since its launch.

The event, supported by the Student’s Union and the University of Westminster BME Staff Network, was open to all staff and students from across the University to volunteer and engage in up to 30 minutes of challenging and respectful conversations about their experiences of prejudice, discrimination, bias, stigma and stereotype.

Participants chose whether to be a ‘book’ or a ‘borrower’, and were briefed on their role in the Human Library. For ‘books’, making the book title was a creative and reflective process and served as a trigger for conversation with the human ‘borrower’. Participants were, afterwards, invited to evaluate their experience.

Human Library Project 2018

Feedback on the experience was overwhelmingly positive, with many volunteers wanting a longer time for conversation. One ‘human book’ said: “I was surprised how quickly I overcame my initial reluctance to speak about very painful experiences of racism and discrimination, but really valued the opportunity to share”.

Another participant, who played the role of a ‘borrower’, reflected: “I thoroughly enjoyed being a ‘borrower’. I was grabbed by the ‘book’ title. It felt like a privilege to be able to listen to someone’s story, especially the vulnerabilities they were able to share”.

A staff member, who also attended the event, commented: "Having participated in the Human Library on a number of occasions since its inception, it’s almost impossible to leave the experience without feeling that little bit better about university life".

Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and organiser of the event, said: “It is always moving to see people connecting across differences. Sharing our experiences using open and honest conversations is one way to increase a sense of belonging to our university community”.

The next Human Library session will take place on Monday 3 December in Cavendish Campus Library as part of World Disability Day. The focus will be sharing experiences of living with a disability while studying and working at the University. This event will create greater awareness of what it means when disability intersects with ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and social class. The event is open to staff and students across the university.

If you would like to get involved, find out more about the Human Library Project at the University of Westminster.

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