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The Human Living Library Project was designed to address gaps in understanding and awareness by utilising the wide array of experience present within the University of Hull’s community of staff, students, and alumni. The project continues to create a space for individuals from different backgrounds, different walks of life and different identities to share their lived experience, as well as address the stereotypes that they have been faced with. In their own words, our human books, share their individual lived experience, any barriers they may have faced in society, career, or university experience. This has helped close the gap between different people and groups here at the university of Hull and allowed our community to better understand intersectional aspects of different people’s identities, making everyone more aware of their biases and preconceived notions. It has also allowed our people to understand identities that they may not have come across in their own lives before becoming a part of the university community. When designing the Human Living Library Project, it was important that we created a timeless platform which can evolve with society and the university community over time while maintaining its initial objective. It’s an open source, online platform which can be accessed inside and outside of the university community, sharing the collected lived experience wider than it could be shared within the university. Today it is an online library with videos, short quotes and additional information tied into each human book, allowing visitors of the website to choose their own path in learning and challenge their own unconscious bias. It has allowed for stories to be saved and remain a timeless reminder of the beauty that diverse communities bring. The project has also allowed for wider connections and collaboration with other universities, such as the University of Huddersfield, and has been further shared with the EDI network hosted every quarter by the University of Hull. We believe that the project itself is a sustainable project, over the years, we have had the capability to add to our human books with additional stories, while keeping the old books and older stories alongside building on the wide ranges of experience. This will show a catalogue of how language and society evolve, how knowledge around identities changes, and even our further understanding of different neurodiverse conditions, helping to destigmatise them.
Our Human Living Library is unique to the university of Hull by way of how it is presented, how the project is ever evolving and its fluidity in the identities it allows to be shared. We help each human book to share their authentic story. Our project is a window into the very real human stories of our people, with a firsthand narrative shared in a unique way. We are extremely proud of the engagement we have had with our human living library and can track the analytics of that engagement.
Additionally, the Human Living Library has utilised the compendium of volunteers to run a Live Human Living Library event, allowing the University of Hull community to hear the human living library stories and ask questions more intimately as well as having a chance to take the Harvard Unconscious Bias test to develop more self-awareness. Here is some of the feedback gathered from this event:
Attendee: The conversations that were happening were good. In my home country, Hungary, these conversations would be taboo and wouldn’t be happening openly in a university event.
Attendee: This event has brought everyone closer together, getting to chat to people about their lives was nice and a good chance to get to know people outside of your usual circles.
Book: These human living library events are such a pleasure to be part of. It gives us an opportunity to speak and answer questions which individuals may have about our lived experience. It also gives us an opportunity to help break stigmas and preconceptions and help individuals who may be struggling and recognize that they can speak about their issues.
Attendee: My own biases when I took the test surprised me.
Attendee: Learned about DID- have heard about it before but never met anyone before who had it. It was brave of the person to speak so openly about it with strangers.
Book: The Human Living Library was a program to raise awareness and connect with the public to share academic knowledge, identify public perspectives, and shape them in academic works at the university.
In conclusion, the project has been a great impact on improving people’s understanding of different identities and experiences. As time goes on, the University of Hull hopes to continue to grow the storage of experience and learning opportunities provided by the Human Living Library.