This guest blog post comes from Heidi Cobham, a second year PhD Philosophy researcher in the School of History, Art History and Philosophy who participated in the Living Library event at this year’s Festival of Doctoral Research. The Living Library concept allows you to borrow people, not books, to learn from their experiences and share knowledge.
As researchers, we’re immersed in reading and we all know the struggles of endlessly reading and struggling to find the information we’re looking for. Have you ever just wanted to read a book that tells you exactly what you want to know and instantly gives you the information that you’re looking for? If so, why not enter the Living Library and ‘read’ a ‘book’ that instantly gives you answers to your questions – or better still, why not be a ‘book’ yourself, giving others advice and top tips about life as a researcher!
Sometimes we can become so bogged down in our own research that we forget the vital skills that are needed to do the research in the first place – mental health, public speaking, teaching etc. and this event is a great way to bring us back to basics. No longer will we cry, ‘I wish I had known that sooner!’
My personal experience?
Living Library was a great experience. It was a nice way to get involved in the researcher community. My book title was ‘Taking and Making Opportunities’, where the aim of the book was to encourage readers to be bold enough to put themselves forward, to take advantage of opportunities and to create new opportunities for themselves.
As doctoral researchers, it can sometimes feel daunting to email someone and ask to join a closed conference, or to approach an external academic to ask them to read your work. The message of my book was that there is no need to be afraid! Taking and making opportunities has allowed me to join closed conferences and networking with senior academics.
I had conversations about the process of me putting myself forward, how I went about it, what it felt like to be given opportunities and how I overcame shyness. From the experience I walked away satisfied that I had helped others.
So, how does becoming a book help others?
Becoming a book means that you can share your experiences as a researcher with others. You could help make the difference to someone’s experience – advising them what not to do or giving them tips on how to do something better.
So, how does becoming a book help me?
The Living Library is a nice way to practice communicating with others if you’re usually not the most confident speaker – while there is no public speaking involved, it’s a great way to practice expressing yourself in a very non-judgemental, relaxed and friendly environment. It is also a great way to meet other researchers and to find out what others are getting up to.
As the saying goes, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – so, come along to the next Living Library event and read all of the books available or, better still, challenge yourself and become the book you always wish you had read!
– Heidi Cobham