People say that libraries change lives and it is true: I have seen it myself. A person comes in worried about a problem and the library solves it for them.  Sometimes it is a book and sometimes it needs more than a book.  That person needs more assistance and sometimes libraries can be the one to give them that extra.  My own library runs a mental health reading group where people’s lives have, quite literally, been changed.  Members are more confident, talk to eachother and to us, hang out in the library and blatantly live better lives than they would have done before.  In a time where the bottom line is all, this means that these people cost less in pharmaceutical bills and in trips to the doctor.  You see, making people’s lives change is not just good per se – it saves money as well.  As such, it is that most relevant of things for a public library today – a clear financial argument for keeping them open.

Such is the thinking with the Reading Well scheme just launched. Rather than having some patients clogging up the waiting rooms and taking expensive drugs, it is better for everyone (the patient and the NHS) if they can help themselves … and with a little help from the library they can now do so.  The doctor will suggest they read a book on the subject and give them a “prescription” (a tick of a book on a list in a leaflet) which they then take to the library which will hopefully have the book (they’ve bought loads more of the suggested titles) or reserve it for them, hopefully for free.  This may not sound like much but I have had direct personal experience of people coming in to me, often with depression or other mental health issues, and – after having been given a relevant book – being notably better afterwards.  The scheme works, saves money, ties in different agencies/ministries/services, helps the patient and increases the standing of public libraries in everyone’s eyes.  What’s not to like?  Well done to all involved.


Launch of Reading Well / Books on Prescription

LtoR Prof Sue Bailey RCP, Dr James Kingsland, Janene Cox SCL, Neil Frude BOP Wales, Minister Ed Vaizey, Miranda McKearney TRA, Debbie Hicks TRA

At the official launch at The National Association of Primary Care. From left to right: Prof Sue Bailey RCP, Dr James Kingsland (GP and champion of the scheme), Janene Cox SCL, Neil Frude BOP Wales, Minister Ed Vaizey (Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey), Miranda McKearney TRA, Debbie Hicks TRA

The Reading Well: Books on Prescription scheme has been officially launched, meaning that you can you can go to your library for books which experts and many GPs have endorsed as helping with conditions such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, phobias and some eating disorders. The scheme comes from independent charity The Reading Agency, the Society of Chief Librarians and local library services.  As well as those shown above, the Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb, was also present.

“The usual GP appointment of 10 minutes is rarely sufficient for these patients, so extra tools to compliment the consultation and provide on-going help and motivation are necessary. Reading Well: Books on Prescription is brilliant. It will enable me and my fellow GPs to recommend book based cognitive behavioural therapy from libraries. This can be as a stand-alone treatment or alongside medication and other psychological interventions. This really is integrating care.” Dr James Kingsland

This is about empowering and informing people which is so important, particularly as we know that some people are often hesitant to access conventional forms of support when it comes to mental health. I am glad to see that such books will be publicly and readily accessible on library shelves, encouraging dialogue and underlining what I have always believed – that mental health is everyone’s business.” Norman Lamb

Reading Well is an excellent example of how our libraries are offering new services to remain cornerstones of the communities they serve.  Our public library service is thriving with 256 million visits to England’s 3,243 libraries in 2011-12.  Innovative services like Reading Well will ensure libraries remain relevant and important to today’s communities.” Ed Vaizey

The scheme works within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. It is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Psychiatrists, The British Psychological Society, Department of Health’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT), British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Mind.

 “A library visit can be the first step on the road to recovery for the millions of people with untreated mental health conditions. So we’re excited to be working together build a powerful new era of collaboration between libraries and local heath partners to improve our communities’ health and well-being.”  Janene Cox, Society of Chief Librarians and Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency

  • Book Prescription Scheme going strong in Welsh libraries – This is South Wales. More “than 38,000 books have been loaned by libraries in Wales over the past two years as part of the Book Prescription Wales (BPW) scheme.”
  • Devon – Libraries’ self-help mental health scheme– BBC. “Reading Well aims to help people with conditions including depression, anxiety, stress, phobias and eating disorders. All 58 libraries in Devon are taking part in the project and will stock a core list of 30 titles. Exeter GP Dr Niall Macleod said it could “reduce demand on the NHS”.”


  • Cash And Carry At Public Library – Ghana reporters (Ghana).  Library is so short of funds that it is needing to charge 20p for each visitor in order to pay the electricity meter.

“Peter Bottomley (Worthing West, Conservative) To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether she is considering extending the public lending right to (a) ebooks whether borrowed remotely or on library premises, (b) audio books borrowed remotely or on library premises and (c) all volunteer libraries; and if she will make a statement.
Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative) The Government response to William Sieghart’s review of e-lending in public libraries in England was published on 27 March 2013 and sets out the Government’s position in terms of extending public lending right (PLR) to audiobooks and e-books: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-independent-review-of-e-lending-in-public-libraries-in-england Any proposal for the potential extension of PLR will be communicated in due course, following full consideration of this matter. A statement relating to how PLR applies to community-supported libraries is available on the Government’s website on the following link: https://www.gov.uk/public-lending-right-how-it-applies”Parliamentary Question: PLR Peter Bottomley MP – They Work For You & Hansard : 6th June

  • Deeds, not more words – what Libraries really need – Labour list. Dan Jarvis, shadow minister for Libraries, criticises recent Arts Council England as a “love in”.  Agrees with most of document and says that Labour respects the local decisions of councils and will continue with cuts but argues that Government still has some role in intervention.  Notes 16% of libraries under threat in 3 years.  Argues for more advice to councils and for some sort of return to effectively monitoring standards in each council:   “the current approach that effectively makes a mockery of the government’s legal duty to oversee the service.” Suggests that there should be more sharing of behind the scenes tasks.

“I believe the potential of libraries is clear and achievable (indeed, in some places it’s already being done), and should be a priority at both a national and a local level. I’m seized by the value they offer, but while we talk about their wonderful potential, hundreds of libraries are being closed across the country.”

“The idea that they can be replaced by one mega-library three bus journeys away is fanciful. So does the idea that the poorest communities can take over these services as volunteers as easily as richer neighbourhoods can.”

Local news

  • Dorset – Dorchester’s new library and learning centre on track to open in July – Dorset for you / Council. “The library and learning resources will be spread across the three floors, including extra books and an improved children’s library area with a family learning room, plus public access computers and self-service units for book, CD and DVD issues. There will be areas for reading, quiet study and browsing. Three multi-functional classrooms, an IT suite and a Family Learning room will be dedicated to adult learning and, when not in use, the classrooms will be available for use as meeting rooms by local community organisations. The building will also feature toilets, baby changing facilities and access to all floors by lifts and stairs.”
  • Fife – Gordon Brown reveals ‘petty criminal’ past – Scotsman. “The Kirkcaldy MP revealed he had impersonated his brother in order to breach strict rules over the borrowing of books while he was a schoolboy in the town. He was speaking at the unveiling of the new-look “Kirkcaldy Galleries” complex, which incorporates the town’s library, after a £2.5 million makeover.” … “The library has been properly merged with the gallery and museum for the first time in the building’s history as part of the revamp.”
  • Fife – Kirkcaldy library, museum and art gallery reopens after refurbishment – STV. Two minute video of the combined building including a short interview with Val McDermid.
  • Harrow – Union concerned over new library outsourcing contract – Harrow Observer. ““There are also concerns from our members about the transfer of contracts and that if the service is outsourced then profit making will come before the needs of the residents who use the libraries. ” … “With the five-year contract for libraries and ten-year deal for the leisure facilities the council estimates savings of £20million will be made.”
  • Liverpool – Adlington firm completes removal of priceless book collection – Citizen. “Andrew Porter Limited, based in Adlington, Chorley, was responsible for relocating its entire collection from various storage locations across the North West including a 150m-deep salt mine in Cheshire. The collection comprised some of the world’s rarest and most valuable books, including Audubon’s Birds of America, which is housed in a dedicated display case in the newly refurbished library, and is worth an estimated £8.5million.”
  • Worcestershire – Kidderminster Library gallery ready to reopen – Kidderminster Shuttle. “The revamped library, which has undergone a £300,000 renovation to include a new first-floor art facility and meeting rooms, will reopen tomorrow.” … “The council has described changes as “bright, open and contemporary”but campaigners who fought the move say the only specialised arts space in Kidderminster has been“destroyed”.” …”Kathy Kirk, county council strategic libraries and learning manager, said: “We are very excited. The library has been reorganised and updated to create a bright, open and contemporary space, incorporating a new gallery to showcase local art.””