Guest post: Read yourself better

Today’s guest blog post comes from Abigail Luthmann, Equal Access Manager, East Sussex Library and Information Service.

Public libraries are often the first port of call after the doctor’s surgery for many people. You can find books on a wide range of medical, health and lifestyle issues from a definition of that strange sounding word the doctor just mentioned, to guides to living with all kinds of diseases, to diet and fitness books. Trained library staff will answer your enquiries, using reliable websites like NHS Choices and referring on to the local NHS hospital library if more specialist information is required.

You can also find information about local support groups and organisations that may be of interest, or the nearest exercise or weight loss class. Many libraries are located near to doctor’s surgeries, and may share a building. Some have taken the next step and have health specialists operating surgeries within libraries, for example Manchester Libraries host Macmillan Cancer Support staff and information so that library visitors can talk in private to a cancer support specialist and pick up a range of information leaflets. This project was a finalist in the CILIP Libraries Change Lives award this year, find out more and watch their video entry here.

Books on Prescription is a scheme offered by the majority of library authorities, where a doctor or other health practitioner prescribes a book to their patient or service user, usually on a mental health topic. This prescription is then taken to their local library where they can pick up the title, all free of charge. A book can often be prescribed instead a pharmaceutical prescription, and the patient is encouraged to take control of their own condition by finding out more and learning about coping strategies. Follow up support is often provided by the GP or mental health team in order to discuss the book with the patient/service user.

Reading aloud is another method used by libraries to benefit those with mental health problems (1 in 4 of us) and other vulnerable groups. Championed by the Liverpool based project, Get Into Reading, this is a simple but effective way to bring people together – groups can read whatever they like: poetry, short stories, novels or plays. There is no pressure on participants to read aloud themselves or take part in discussions, however over time many join in more and more – talking about how what they have read reflects on their own experiences. The space created within the group offers a safe and friendly environment to chat, open up and enjoy the relaxing experience of being read to.
The Get Into Reading model operates in many areas across the UK and internationally, and many other public libraries operate their own versions, for example in Kirklees.

Find out more about Get Into Reading and their accredited training programme for group facilitators.

Guest bloggers are not affiliated with VftL, and all views and opinions are their own.