The University of Westminster’s Human Library Project, which took place on Wednesday 18 October, has enabled staff and students to take part in debates tackling prejudice as part of Black History Month.

The Human Library Project recognised Black History Month for the third year where staff and students from across the University, as well as Equality Challenge Unit staff and their friends, volunteered to engage in up to 30 minutes of challenging and respectful conversation 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.

Feedback on the experience was overwhelmingly positive, with many volunteers saying that they wanted a longer time for conversation, and welcomed the opportunity to learn more about themselves and others.

A participant who got involved in the session said: “I found the process deeply insightful about myself. Trying to put my book title into words was challenging but helpful, especially because my borrower was such a keen and empathetic listener.”

Moving away from their initial idea of creating ‘tolerance’ for differences, the project team, including Ida Kwan and Aimee Andersen from the Library Services and Curriculum Support Team as well as Senior Lecturer in Psychology Deborah Husbands, said: “We wanted to emphasise ‘connecting’ and the value this brings to our diverse community of staff and students. Successful engagement with external partners and organisations offers further insight into the experiences of our staff and students. The team also wishes to recognise the support of Senior Lecturer Bryan Bonaparte who has volunteered as a ‘book’ or ‘borrower’ at each internal Human Library event.”

The next Human Library session will take place on Thursday 2 November in Cavendish Campus as part of Disability Awareness Day.

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

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