“Reading” people to learn about new science careers: the Human Library method

By Dr. Irene Drymiotou, University of Cyprus

In a normal library, you read books. But in a human library, you read people. The human library method is frequently used to establish open conversations with people one would not meet in their daily routine, and this is what makes it so interesting in the context of science education. In MULTIPLIERS, the method is being used not only to promote meaningful interactions between students and stakeholders involved in socio-scientific issues but also to elicit interest in potential future career paths in science.

The MULTIPLIERS Open Science Community (OSC) in Cyprus was the first to organise a human library. A booth was set up in the central square of Nicosia during an awareness-raising campaign about Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) co-organised on May 13th by the Cyprus OSC members, the Learning in Science Group (LSG) of the University of Cyprus and The Junior and Senior school.

A group of five students who expressed interest in the booth interviewed different stakeholders, representing groups such as the pharmaceutical and the food industries, doctors, policymakers and parents. The interviewed stakeholders were:

  • Mr Charalambos Yiangou, a pharmacy owner and pharmacist
  • Mrs Christina Mylona, a microbiologist working in the food industry
  • Mr George Paraschas, a biologist working as a Chief Technical Officer in Remedica, a local pharmaceutical company
  • Doctor Markella Marcou, a medical microbiologist working at Makario children’s hospital
  • Mr George Panteli, a parent, and,
  • Dr Yiota Mylona, biology inspector of the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture

The purpose of the interviews was to create a bridge between students and experts and initiate discussions about the importance of tackling AMR.  Particularly, the students asked questions to learn about the stakeholders’ profiles in terms of their educational background, current jobs and career trajectories, their reasons for choosing their jobs, school experiences related to science, hobbies, and their stance on AMR.

The informal discussions that evolved promoted meaningful interactions between the students and the stakeholders. The human library raised students’ awareness about possible career and job opportunities as claimed by one of the interviewers: “It was really fun because I got to know about people working in different professions that I might be interested in choosing later on”.

This session also provided information about the actions implemented and/or suggested by each group to fight AMR.

Now every physician can use his or her judgement to prescribe antibiotics but recently the Ministry of Health is trying to monitor the number of prescriptions prescribed by doctors. You probably know that now we have the new health system and doctors in outpatient care, that means out of hospitals, prescribe electronically. Now, the Ministry of Health is trying to cooperate with the national insurance organization that has this software that we use for the prescriptions, and they try to collect data on prescription patterns by different doctors and give feedback to them and see what’s going on. This is an effort to monitor prescriptions by individual doctors. In hospitals it is important to look at how antibiotics are prescribed. In many countries in the world, in hospitals there are antibiotics stewardship teams which means hospitals need to have multidisciplinary teams of professionals like pharmacists or microbiologists, infectious diseases physicians and so on, that monitor and help with monitoring the prescription of antibiotics in their hospital. The other thing that hospitals need to do is not to allow transmission of resistant bacteria within their hospital, so have good infection control measures to prevent resistant organisms going from one patient to another patient.

Doctor Markou – Medical Microbiologist

Students in Nicosia, Cyprus, interview experts on the topic of antimicrobial resistance