panoramic view of library

Library of Lived Experience in the North

People with lived experience of mental health difficulties are often best placed to help others. We want to try and explore new ways in which people can do this. One way is to do this via a Living Library.

Here, people are employed as living books, trained and supported to share their experiences in one-to-one conversations. Readers are people seeking to learn about mental health to help themselves, a loved one, or they might be staff. Readers choose a book based on a short author summary and have a conversation with the book. Readers are encouraged to ask questions to create an interactive dialogue between the books and readers. The idea is to have conversations that draw on lived experience to inform, challenge our preconceptions and change the way we think. Everyone within the library is equal and books can choose to decline answering any of the readers questions if they so wish. Books can be employed flexibly allowing a broad range of people to contribute across ethnic, gender, sexuality and age groups, and including those in work or with caring responsibilities.

Watch the video, demonstrating a role-played example of a conversation between a Book and a Reader.

What does this study involve?

Our research team includes people with lived experience, staff, and researchers. This study has two parts to it. The first part involves us drawing together data from previous living libraries, and interviewing those who have taken part in them. This is to uncover how and why living libraries work and the effects that they have on the books and readers who use them.

The second part of the project involves regular co-design workshops (online) with those who have lived experience of mental health issues, living libraries and peer support. The workshops use creative methods to get attendees to think about how a living libraries could be set up and any issues that may need to be addressed.

Information about Lancaster University Library of Lived Experience of Mental Health.

Meet the research team

Please note this website is being updated as the study progresses

A multi-coloured image that says Northwest Coast Research Innovation Awards 2023

The Library of Lived Experience, created by a team led by Lancaster University and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, has been shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) in the 2023 North West Coast Research and Innovation Awards.

The awards are hosted by the Innovation Agency, NIHR Clinical Research Network: North West Coast (CRN NWC) and The Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC).

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 22 June 2023 to be held at The Spine in Liverpool.

Read the full news article here.

Tab Content: Study Outputs

  • We have co-created an implementation guide for living libraries for mental health, please complete our form to download a free copy of the guide.

  • We have put together a Community of Practice on Teams and have a network of people who are interested in living libraries for mental health. We post resources for running living libraries, such as information sheets for potential Books or Librarians, and a guide for evaluating potential impacts of a living library. It also offers a space for people to ask questions, share their experiences, and share resources. If you would like to be added to this group, please email us: