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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

The Human Library learning experience

Did you know that senior teaching fellow, Sandy Walker, is a volunteer coordinator for a Human Library service which aims to help reduce stigma surrounding those living with mental health issues?

The Human Library operates just as a normal library would, only the ‘books' in a Human Library are people - service users from Southampton and surrounding area each with different experiences of mental health issues. 

As you'd expect in an everyday library, there is a librarian, a set of rules of engagement for taking out ‘books' and a 30 minutes timeframe in which to ‘read' your book.  Each ‘book' is checked after 10 minutes to ensure they are happy with their reader and a get out clause is agreed in advance should the book become uncomfortable.

The Human Library can be tailored to suit a specific audience and topics are advertised in advance. For instance these may be issues such as bi-polar, self-harm, substance misuse, post-natal depression, anorexia or the experience of being sectioned under the mental health act.

Although initially developed for the general public, the Human Library is also a useful tool for students studying mental health subjects and businesses, in providing the opportunity to find out more, first hand, about these issues. 

Feedback has been incredibly positive and users report very powerful experiences in taking out books.

The cost is minimal and only includes travel expenses for the service users.

For further information on human libraries see or contact Sandy Walker on extension 27897, or email

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