No ‘quiet please’ for Year 10 students at Chipping Norton School human library!

A library is traditionally a place of quiet but talking was very much the order of the day at Chipping Norton School ‘human library’!

Volunteers from 17 local businesses loaned out their wisdom and experience at the lively, interactive careers event for year 10 students organised by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise (OxLEP) Skills Team.

A human library involves students ‘borrowing’ each volunteer – or ‘human book’ – for a short time to learn from all the knowledge inside each ‘book’ about their particular job, workplace and sector. Students have the opportunity to hear each individual talking passionately about what they do and to ask lots of questions, finding out all about their career choices and pathways, qualifications, experience, role and top tips.

Former Chipping Norton School student Lauren McCallum (pictured above) is a bench joiner with Cotteswood Kitchens in Chipping Norton and was keen to share her experience of working in construction with other young women.

Other human books included Renee Watson, Head of Explosions at Wats.on and The Curiosity Box, Graeme Hackland, Chief Information Officer at Williams F1, Shaun Fagan, founder of digital marketing company Black Dog New Media and Julia Cook, clothes designer and founder of Tickittyboo and Tickittyshake.

Julia (pictured below) said: “I enjoyed today and always like to be involved with the schools especially with creative workshops and definitely helping kids understand what's involved in building a career and the starting out in the work place. I employ 5 children from Chipping Norton Top School too so it was good to understand their thought process and hear their opinions today.”


175 year 10 students took part in the human library session, meeting each business volunteer in small groups and sharing the questioning among the group. The session was timed to give the students experience of talking to adults and build their confidence about interacting with business people ahead of their work experience placements in July.

Theresa Dix, Careers and Work Experience Co-ordinator at Chipping Norton School said: “It was wonderful to be able to give students the chance to engage with adults and talk about their jobs and career paths. Talking to them makes it realistic, rather than a paper exercise. Hopefully, it will give them more confidence for their work experience placements in July.”

New guidance on careers guidance and inspiration in schools from the Department for Education states: “More contact with real employers, enthusiastic and passionate about their own careers, not only inspires pupils but also challenges pre-conceived ideas about jobs. Having the opportunity to talk to people in those jobs helps to build knowledge and understanding of the full range of careers available in a particular sector. This can help to broaden horizons, challenging stereotypical thinking about the kind of careers to which individuals might aspire.”

A human library is a great way to give students this valuable kind of contact with employers and introduce them to local businesses they may consider working for in the future. It also gives them the opportunity to find out about jobs and career pathways they may not have previously known about and the skills and experience they need to be gaining now in order to pursue a particular career in the future.

Here’s what three of the students had to say:

“I enjoyed meeting all the employers and finding out about what skills they need for their job. I learnt about new skills that I will need when I go to work. I learnt about new jobs that I had never before heard of that I am now quite interested in learning more about. I enjoyed the experience and definitely would do it again.” Marcus Randall

“I enjoyed the human library because it gave us a chance to ask experts questions we had about different career paths. I also got to understand the skills I needed to have if I were to choose one of their jobs.” Ellie Lewis

“I enjoyed taking part in the human library because it gave us a chance to speak to experts about their jobs. This meant we were able to understand the skills required.” Connie Harris

Please get in touch if you’d like to talk to us about arranging a session at your school.