The University of Westminster’s Human Library Project, which took place on Monday 3 December, enabled staff and students to share experiences of living with a disability while studying and working at the University.

The Human Library Project is an international equalities movement that seeks to challenge prejudice and discrimination by encouraging conversation. It connects communities and gathers momentum internationally with now a Human Library in over 70 countries across the world.

Human Libraries celebrate differences and encourage a better understanding of people who come from varied cultural and lifestyle backgrounds. The initiative offers an important space for challenging implicit attitudes and unconscious bias. 

On 3 December, colleagues from the Department of Psychology as well as from the Disability Learning Support and the Libraries teams at the University of Westminster collaborated to host a successful Human Library event, which coincided with The International Day of Disabilities. Staff and students from across the University participated in one of two sessions.

Participants chose whether to be a ‘book’ or a ‘borrower’, and were briefed on their role prior to the session. For ‘books’, making the book title was a creative and reflective process and served as a trigger for conversation with the human ‘borrower’. Using attentive listening and respectful conversation, ‘books’ and ‘borrowers’ explored their experiences of working and studying at the University with a disability.

Feedback for this initiative, which has now run for the third year at the University, was overwhelmingly positive, with an unanimous call from volunteers requesting for a longer time for conversations. Specifically, a ‘book’ said: “As a ‘book’, it was very engaging. The ‘borrower’ was listening actively and was curious about my disability. It was very uplifting and interactive. I felt rejuvenated.”

One of the borrowers commented: “I looked forward to the experience. I felt connected and privileged. The book was eloquent and comfortable to talk to. I felt the talk helped in putting my own experiences in place. I was not the only one in the dark. Mental ill health can happen to anyone.”

Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and organiser of the Human Library event, said: “I continue to be amazed at the power of a simple process to connect people in such powerful ways. This is what inclusion looks like, and the book titles speak for themselves.”

Find out more about the Human Library Project at the University of Westminster.

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