Friday, 18 January 2013

Libraries and health and wellbeing

Huw Lewis, Welsh Government Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, launched The first incomplete field guide to wellbeing in libraries on Thursday 17th January at an event in Newport.

The guide (available at http://www.goscl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Wellbeing-in-Libraries1.pdf ) highlights over 50 examples of activities in Welsh Public Libraries that contribute to the health and wellbeing of library users, including fascinating case studies from each of the 22 public library authorities. Examples include initiatives that operate across Wales such as the Book Prescription Wales and the "Get reading, get better" campaign. But equally fascinating are the local initiatives that could perhaps offer inspiration to other libraries to follow suit, or to be similarly creative. These include schemes that:
  • support parents and carers,
  • engage and enthuse children and teenagers,
  • provide support to job seekers,
  • enrich the lives of older, homeless, vulnerable or disabled people, and those otherwise at the margins of society.
The guide draws on the excellent work of the Society of Chief Librarians in Wales and their report of 2012 on the Health, Wellbeing and Social Benefits of public libraries (available at http://www.goscl.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SCL-Wales-report.pdf). Both publications will serve, I am sure, as excellent support materials, when discussing libraries' roles in supporting health and wellbeing targets with councillors, cabinet members, directors and other key stakeholders. And these are crucial discussions to be having.

However, the guide isn't just relevant to public libraries! There are parallels for libraries in all other sectors too. Workplace libraries may often support the health information needs of their users. Academic libraries do much to support their students and learners with health, welfare and pastoral information. Not only does the guide offer great ideas for how library services can support the health and wellbeing of their patrons. This is a great example of how to provide convincing "evidence" for the value and impact of libraries where direct  measurement or indicators are difficult or impossible to provide.

Further information about the guide is given in this press release.

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