First Prison to Host a Human Library
We are the Human Library, a library for all of mankind and as our work develops, we try to focus on ensuring a broad access to our learning opportunities. This means we are continuously working for our library to be more inclusive for both readers and books. Last month we took another important step as we published for inmates from Stoke Heath Prison in the United Kingdom.
Shropshire libraries leading the way
For many years we have had the pleasure of a tremendous publishing partnership with Shropshire Libraries. Reaching readers in the community with incredible opportunities. However Shropshire Libraries are also a partner to the local prison and so together we approached the institution with an idea to bring our open books inside.
‘We have seen the impact that the Human Library has on readers in public libraries. With this first-ever pilot of the Human Library inside the prison, we were encouraging the incarcerated readers to ask and discuss difficult questions to see if we can find more things that connect us, rather than divide us within four walls. Readers in Stoke Heath were able to challenge their perceptions and ask personal questions about how the Human Library books deal with prejudice and stigma”, says Michael Lewis, Head of Shropshire Libraries.
Facing bias and stigma is universal
On the day of the session six inmates and equality representatives became Readers of three volunteer Human Library Books. Helping shed light on topics like transgender, bereavement, mental health, and growing up in care. Each reading ran for 25 minutes and all our readers were able to engage with the three books. Open and honest exchanges where readers allowed themself to be as vulnerable and open as the books sitting in front of them.
‘It was a great pleasure to work with the Human Library, Shropshire libraries, prison staff, and prisoner equalities representatives to organise this groundbreaking successful event at HMP/YOI Stoke Heath. Our prisoner equality representatives engaged extremely well, found all the topics very interesting, and had some really frank and open discussions to discuss prejudice. They all rated the event very highly and identified useful topics for future events, which will be taken to our equalities forum to help develop our strategy,” says Gill Pereira, Head of Reducing reoffending Stoke Heath Prison /YOI
What our Readers said
Here is what some of our Readers had to say about the experience.
“They were all inspirational and I took a lot away from meeting the books.”
“It was very touching hearing others’ opinions and views. It was quite emotional and amazing at the same time.”
“The bereavement affected me the most, it brought up personal experience, but healthy to do so, very happy for the experience.”
Shropshire Libraries – https://shropshire.gov.uk/libraries/
Stoke Heath Prison – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/stoke-heath-prison