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The Healing Power of Books and Libraries

A letter in the Guardian has revealed the growing recognition of "bibliotherapy" - the power of books and reading to help address issues of poor mental health. As correspondent John Duffy writes, 

"It will pay the NHS, local authorities and voluntary support organisations to see our libraries as a profound resource that can use bibliotherapy to help people with fragile mental health, their carers and support workers with the great gift of imaginative writing."

The letter is a response to an earlier article in the same newspaper in which leading author Ann Cleeves announced that she is funding bibliotherapy programmes at the innovative Kirklees Library Service. Explaining her reasoning behind the generous support, Cleeves shares a personal insight into how books and reading facilitated the rehabilitation of her husband, Tim, following a traumatic psychotic episode. As Cleeves says,

"So I’ve decided to sponsor two bibliotherapists or reading coaches (we’ll use that title until we can come up with something better) for a pilot scheme in the north-east.

This donation will be shared across the five public health teams we have on board: Northumberland, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Co Durham and South Tees, who have agreed to also contribute funds so that we can have five reading coaches, one for each area. GPs, social prescribers and community workers will be able to refer individuals who may be struggling with chronic pain, anxiety, stress, depression or loneliness to the reading coaches, who will provide friendship and a listening ear, as well as access to books, enthusiastic librarians and other readers."

Librarians have long known about the restorative power of reading. Part of the skill of professional librarians is to understand the world of books and to get to know the individual reader so that we can recommend exactly the right book to suit that person's needs. This talent for recommendation is celebrated in CILIP's lockdown project with the Youth Libraries Group, the National Shelf Service

We hope that Cleeves' initiative will be the start of a new programme of bibliotherapy and mental health support across the nation!


Helping kids get through the lockdown - the Buguri Library, Bangalore

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, but perhaps most of all children and young people around the globe who have found their childhood interrupted by lockdown and anxiety. That's why the story of the Buguri Library in Bangalore is so inspirational. 

A small community-led library, Buguri Library has worked hand-in-hand with parents and educators to develop a special programme of outreach, activity and engagement to help keep children and young people occupied through reading and learning, despite being stuck at home. 

In this article from Edex Live,  Library Programme Director Lakshmi Karunakaran comments, 

"There are no better friends than books and in a pandemic like this, they can help children gain knowledge, overcome fear and deal with stress."

The children that the Buguri Library serves have already known lives of hardship. Focused on supporting the families of people involved in 'ragpicking' (rummaging through refuse in the streets to collect material for salvage) in the cities of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Tumakuru, the library service knows only too well the importance of literacy and education in giving people a chance to escape from the poverty trap that affects millions worldwide. 

With a focus on the safety of the children, the library developed an active reading programme. They used smartphones either to engage children and young people directly in reading sessions or to enable them to use their parent's phones to participate via 'tele-conference'. They also recorded these live sessions for distribution via WhatsApp, enabling them to reach even more children. In total, the library has been able to lead collaborative reading activities over over 75 books through this combination of technologies. 

When parents started to return to work (taking their mobile devices with them), the library shifted tack once again, using their existing networks to distribute book packs to keep the kids reading. Each pack is accompanied by a worksheet, which the children then photograph and send to their librarian as proof of participation. 

The library is soon to begin the careful process of re-opening for face-to-face services, but it is clear from their experience during COVID-19 that they have found a valuable new approach to outreach and public engagement, and that their innovative and practical use of technology has added an important new platform for serving their important community!

 


CILIP launches fundraiser to rebuild libraries in Beirut

CILIP, working in conjunction with Beirut library authority ASSABIL, has launched an appeal to help raise funds to rebuild the three municipal public libraries destroyed in the explosion on the 4th August. 

The fundraiser aims to make a contribution to the estimated $55,000 cost of rebuilding these much-needed and well-used local libraries. ASSABIL have sent us this short video which shows the extent of the damage:

Please visit the Beirut Appeal page on Libraries Deliver and make a donation to this important fundraiser! You can also help us by sharing this appeal with your friends, colleagues and family. 

Thank you for any support you are able to give!


West Sussex libraries re-open to the public

Fantastic news from our colleagues in West Sussex that all 36 of their library branches are to re-open to the public after being forced to shut their doors for 5 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The West Sussex Library Service has been working hard to ensure that all of its libraries are 'COVID-secure' and safe for the public to use, with measures in place to ensure social distancing and the quarantining of books for 72 hours.

Duncan Crow, the County Council cabinet member for fire and rescue and communities, said:

“All of our libraries across the county have been open for a wonderful service called ‘Select and Collect’ since the beginning of July, which has allowed local staff to deliver a much needed library offer to all of their users, but since then they have been working on plans to get the library buildings open for more services as quickly and as safely as possible.

“The steps they have put in place to open up browsing to limited numbers has taken a lot of thought and effort from the entire library service, but we hope that you will now take this opportunity to come and choose from the full range of library stock.”

All over the country, libraries are working hard to be able to re-open their doors to their users safely and securely. It is great to see this news from West Sussex and if you live in the area, do show your support by going out and paying them a visit!

 

 


First Dog on the Moon celebrates fabulous libraries!

Regular readers of the Guardian will know the brilliant and insightful 'First Dog on the Moon' cartoons that take a wry look at everyday  life. In the latest series, they take a look at the 'front lines of COVID-19' with a celebration of libraries as "our book-filled heroes!"

We won't reproduce the cartoon here, since you need to see it in all its glory on the Guardian website (also, copyright), but we thought we would share this panel, which gives you a sense of how wonderful it is!

 


Libraries and Accurate Information about the Coronavirus

Your local library is a fantastic community resource, offering a safe, trusted and welcoming space for all. Libraries are ideally-placed to play a role in the national response to the Coronavirus and COVID-19 and to help you find accurate information so that you can look after yourself, friends, family and colleagues.


The Public Library System is Your Next Step on Your Career Journey!

In the UK, public libraries are well-known for their diverse selection of entertainment on offer, from books to film, comics and creative spaces, all the way to art programs and more! But were you aware that alongside these and other services libraries also offer tremendous support to those seeking to enter the workforce, transition to a new job, or develop their existing careers? 


Reading Aloud, School Libraries, and the Power of Storytime

Being read aloud to is one of life’s simple pleasures. Who doesn’t have a favourite storybook from childhood, whether it is Goodnight, Moon, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Winnie-the-Pooh or one of countless other timeless literary treasures that was read to them by a parent or caretaker?


Fiat Libraries: Laying a Strong Foundation for Education and Community

Public libraries have continued to evolve since Carnegie’s day, adapting to modern developments and expanding their roles not only as repositories of literature, but as institutions for education, job training, social assistance, and even as thriving community hubs and centres for the arts.


Public Libraries: A Smart Investment for All Seasons

Across the UK, many public libraries are struggling to remain open. With nearly 800 libraries having closed since 2010 - due to national austerity measures and a decline in spending at the local level - this a national crisis. But it is also a locale by local tragedy.