Sorrelle Clements is Service Development Manager for Coventry Libraries. The libraries participate in the Reading Well scheme, which helps people understand and manage their health and wellbeing using helpful reading.
"A public library is anonymous and non-stigmatised"
In a special section in the library, people can find books on many different conditions. The books range from self-help books for dealing with anxiety to memoirs and works of fiction. "Even in very highly deprived areas, people have access to these books and materials," Sorrelle says. "A carer or anyone working with the family will be able to tell them, "This is right on your doorstep." A public library is anonymous and non-stigmatised, which makes it easy to just drop in."
Helping patients, friends and family
Reading Well is put together by a panel of experts including health professionals and people with lived experience of the conditions. Most people who borrow books from the collection do so on their own initiative, Sorrelle says. "But the books do issue very well - much better than I would have expected." Reading Well is helping not just people who suffer from a condition themselves, but also their friends and family. "In its purest form it's an authenticated collection to help people with their wellbeing, but really I think it's reached out much further in to the community, with professionals and friends and family also participating." Someone might want to better understand their sister's depression or their child's ADHD. There is even a children's book to explain what it is happening when a grandparent develops dementia.
"A new outlook and a new approach"
One person who came to drop in one day explained to Sorrelle how much the place meant to her. "I was talking to the lady in the library one day," Sorrelle recounts. "She explained that her husband had passed and she'd just stayed at home." She had fallen into a deep depression. One day, on her way back from grocery shopping, she stepped into the library to hide from the rain. After that first visit, she started coming in more regularly. The library offered materials for self-help, as well as reading groups to meet new people. "It had given her a new outlook and a new approach and she'd started to come in regularly," Sorrelle says. "It had made a real difference to her."
Connecting libraries with the health sector
The scheme has allowed the library to foster connections with public health professionals and social workers, who can refer their clients to the collection. "I value the scheme so much," Sorrelle says. "Because Reading Well is nationally recognised and professionally endorsed, people have the confidence to really engage with the collections. It has given libraries a different platform in the health landscape."
Visit the Reading Well website for more information on the scheme
Browse the Reading Well Mood-boosting books list for 2018