Book of the month: Nichola Swallow
Nichola Swallow from Tring in the United Kingdom started her Human Library journey as a Reader and is now a part of the community as a Human Book. She has been involved with voluntary work for many years, bringing awareness to the challenges connected to eating disorders.
Recognizing the bias
Nichola, who has worked as a Diversity and Inclusion Manager, thought she was an inclusive person, but becoming a Reader at the Human Library made her recognise that she had biases that she wasn’t even aware of.
“It is an amazing opportunity to hear stories that people would otherwise never share with you, and it has made me realise that I have biases that I didn’t even know about”, Nichola says about her experiences as a Reader.
Joining the community
Nichola was inspired to become a Book herself, because she realised how the Human Library concept could help her challenge stereotypes on eating disorders.
“At the Human Library, I can help challenge the stereotypes that eating disorders look a certain way. Having an eating disorder in a larger body is not recognised, and no one talks about it publicly,” she says about her inspiration for joining the Human Library as a volunteer Human Book.
Nichola joined the organization during the pandemic and has therefore been published primarily at online workplace events. The Virtual Book Depot knows no national borders and is therefore able to publish English speaking Books from all around the world. Nichola highlights this as an unexpected benefit.
“Being a volunteer in the Human Library makes you understand perspectives from people around the globe, as you are exposed to a lot of different life experiences”.
Teaching girls to value themselves
At one of her readings she was asked by a father of daughters, how he could help prevent his girls from suffering from eating disorders. She told him that it is important to think about not only complimenting them on their looks, but instead teaching them that their looks are not the most valuable about them.
“We need to teach them to value themselves, not only their body or their looks,” Nichola says about the prevention of eating disorders.
“The man understood my message and said that he was really going to think about his interactions with his daughters. It was kind of a light bulb moment”, Nichola says about the interaction.
Interacting with readers
Prior to becoming involved with the Human Library, Nichola has done a tremendous amount of voluntary work as the ambassador for a charity. She has done the speaking at events and conferences and sat on advisory panels and therefore she has a deep insight into the challenges connected to eating disorders.
She highlights that the voluntary experience at the Human Library is quite different from what else she has engaged in before.
“At the Human Library you allow letting the Reader read you, otherwise I just talk about stuff that I can recite in my dreams”.
This interaction has the unexpected benefit that Nichola has started to think differently about herself.
“The interaction with the Readers makes me look at myself differently. Like maybe I should be a bit more kind to myself”.