At The Reading Agency we act as a catalyst to help libraries make more impact by working together across local authority boundaries to share good practice, ideas, and crucially right now, to save money. We also connect national partners to libraries to build better opportunities for people to become readers. We broker library partnerships with the BBC, TUC and 40 publishers.
This collective way of working has fed into the thinking behind the launch this week of the Society of Chief Librarians' (SCL) new Universal Offer strategy, in particular the reading and health offers. I was delighted to announce that we will be working with SCL to launch a new Reading Well: Books on Prescription scheme for England this May.
The scheme aims to bring reading's healing benefits to the 6 million people with anxiety and depression. There is growing evidence showing that self help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions get better. Reading Well Books on Prescription will enable GPs and mental health professionals to prescribe patients cognitive behavioural therapy through a visit to the library. Here they can get books to help them understand and manage conditions from depression to chronic pain. The scheme works within NICE guidelines, and uses 30 books endorsed by health partners as having evidenced CBT benefits.
The new English scheme has the backing of the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nursing and Psychiatry, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and of the Department of Health through its Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme. We've been working on this area since the late 1990s, and this current phase of the work is funded by Arts Council England.
The new era Reading Well Books on Prescription builds on some fantastic English local schemes and on the successful Welsh approach developed by Professor Neil Frude. Having one shared scheme with the backing of major health partners is a big step forward for libraries at a crucial time when responsibility for public health comes over to local authorities.
For the first time the scheme will come under a Reading Well banner which also encourages people to use novels, poetry and reading groups to feel better. Our Mood Boosting Books initiative helps thousands of readers share recommendations for uplifting books. People will also be encouraged to join a reading group through their library and at Reading Groups for Everyone, a website which helps people find and join groups, including those run by partner charity, The Reader Organisation.
The Reading Agency believes passionately in the social importance of libraries, and like all library supporters we're finding it deeply frustrating to see the heartbreaking effect of cuts. We'll be doing all we can to use our model to help make best use of the money that is available, and believe it's vital to have continued development and innovation.
We hope our Reading Well health work with SCL will have a double benefit. It will use reading and libraries to make a real difference to people's lives, and it should help powerful new partners see what a vital, multi-faceted role libraries play, and that investing in a strong public library system is a really smart move, because it can help prevent social problems further down the line.
Listen to Debbie Hicks speak about the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme on BBC Radio 4's World at One on 31 Jan (starting at 23 minutes) and watch an excerpt of Debbie Hicks and Dr James Kingsland, a GP from Merseyside, talk on BBC Breakfast.
You can also read articles about the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme announcement in The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph and The Bookseller.
Find out more about our Reading Well work.
For further information contact Debbie Hicks on email@example.com