The Charles Seale Hayne Library

Students and staff at Plymouth University are preparing to take a leaf out of their education textbooks when they create an innovative ‘human library’ on campus.

The event will see 14 staff and students become human books for the day, offering their knowledge and life experiences to anyone who chooses to ‘pick them from the shelf’.

Based on an idea that originated in Denmark as a way of confronting prejudice, the Human Library will feature the 'books' discussing subjects such as autism and dyslexia, the difficulties of balancing work and family, and issues around gender and a sense of place.

Sophie Godwin, Mark O’Carroll, Halima Qaasim and Gordana Webster – second year undergraduates on the Education Studies degree – have coordinated the event after learning about the concept as part of their module ‘Alternatives in education’.

Sophie said: 

“We were very interested in the idea of people acting as books, so we began to work in partnership with our lecturers and the library to bring the event to life. Very few universities have ever run one, and we think it's inspiring and uplifting to hear of others’ experiences.”

Book titles include Between Laundry and Research – the story of a mother from Saudi Arabia who has to juggle family commitments and the academic demands of her PhD; Working in the Shadow Lands – the experiences of one academic who has spent years working with young people in educational settings beyond schools; and #wearewinter and the Justin Bieber Complex of a Canadian – the reflections of what it means to be ‘home’ when you’re Canadian and have been living in Plymouth for 18 years.

Associate Professor Joanna Haynes, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies in the Plymouth Institute of Education, said: 

“We source so much of our information now from the internet, where once knowledge exchange was based upon word-of-mouth and story-telling. So it will be fascinating to watch how visitors engage with the ‘books’ and the effect it has upon them in turn, to be valued in this way. It also opens up an interesting dialogue around the changing use of libraries in the internet age.”

The Human Library will be held on 25 March, on the third floor of the University’s Charles Seale-Hayne Library.