This toolkit is a joint initiative between Huddersfield and Hull University Libraries, as part of the All Libraries North (ALN) consortium. The aim of the toolkit is to share with you the reasons you might want to consider hosting a Human Library space and to provide you practical information to help you plan and execute this.
The contents of this toolkit have been written by the following individuals. If you have any questions about the toolkit or just want to have a chat about some of the ideas we've shared, please feel free to reach out to us.
Alison Sharman- Academic Librarian at University of Huddersfield- A.Sharman@hud.ac.uk
Kate McGuinn- Subject Librarian at University of Huddersfield- K.Mcguinn@hud.ac.uk
Erika Butane- HR Administrator & Human Library Coordinator at University of Hull- E.Butane@hull.ac.uk
Rachel Welch- Head of Customer Experience (Library) at University of Hull- R.Welch@hull.ac.uk
A 'Human Library' is a physical or digital space dedicated to humans sharing their lived experiences with other humans. Lived experiences could include protected characteristics, cultural identies and personal attributes. The aim of a human library is to challenge stereotypes and to mitigate the effects of unconcious bias. It can also better our understanding of diversity in order to help create more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social and ethnic differences.
Human libraries can be created with a specific group of humans in mind or can be inclusive of all. In the case of Higher Education environments, you may wish to focus on creating a library for just staff or just students, or you may want to include everyone. You'll need to consider the aims of your human library in order to understand who your participants and audience will be.
You may see activities under similar names, such as Living Library or Living Books.
Physical human library events are most common, and could be held in conjunction with other organisational activities, for example a conference or workshop, where it could complement the event aims. Physical events could also be held to support awareness periods, such as Mental Health Awareness Week or LGBTQ+ History Month.
A digital, or virtual, human library can be a great way of creating something lasting for your organisation. This could be made available just to staff and/or students on your internal sites, or more widely available on an open-access webpage or LibGuide, like we are using here. Digital libraries can include written content or videos, and emphasis can be created around specific stories to align with organisational campaigns or awareness periods.