Andy Stewart, a Library Team Leader in Gloucestershire, first discovered Reading Well by chance while shelving books at work. He describes finding Overcoming Chronic Fatigue from the Reading Well for long term conditions booklist as "a real breakthrough moment" in understanding his symptoms and getting the correct diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome from his GP.
"The book was key in getting the correct diagnosis"
After two years of regular GP visits and extensive testing, the doctors had still not been able to pin down Andy's symptoms. It was only when he came across Overcoming Chronic Fatigue on the shelves of the library he worked in that he was able to put a name to his experience.
Andy commented: "Until I picked the book up off the shelf, I hadn't heard anything about it. It was only literally by chance I looked at the book and it said chronic fatigue, and I thought, well, I'm always tired, I'll have a flick through this... I checked it out that day and read it. I worked my way through the list of symptoms and it was pretty much like a check box."
Andy showed the book to his doctor who referred him to a specialist straightaway, and he directly attributes his resulting diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome to discovery of the book.
Andy said: "The book was the breakthrough point for me because I could nail down a load of very nebulous symptoms that I'd been tested for to say, actually, it's all of these. The book was key in getting the correct diagnosis."
"The symptoms will always be there, but the book is about how to manage the condition"
As well as identifying the condition itself, the book's practical advice also gave Andy the tools he needed to self-manage his chronic fatigue.
Andy added: "It's like a Haynes manual for your car - it says this is the problem and there is no cure, but if you manage your lifestyle, you can manage your symptoms and it will get better."
The straightforward language and layout of the book was particularly important for Andy, as chronic fatigue can cause memory and concentration problems.
Andy said: When you have chronic fatigue syndrome and you're tired...you could stare at something or listen to something and it just doesn't go in... But the book was great because it allowed me to work through at my own pace... And they were all in such easy modules that it was really straightforward to do."
He emphasised that because the book was "broken down into manageable chunks" and used very little medical jargon, he was able to "dive in and dive out" of both the paper and ebook versions with relative ease.
Andy has also been able to use the self-management advice and information in the book to better communicate his needs to friends and family.
A dual perspective
On top of the scheme's endorsement by health experts and people with lived experience, Andy's personal experience of using Reading Well has made him feel more confident in recommending the books to others in his front line work in the library.
Andy commented: "I know the books in the series that I've read have been very good so I feel more comfortable recommending the other ones. It's not theoretical anymore."
He is now a passionate advocate for the scheme and has been involved in building up and promoting library health collections in Gloucestershire for the last 6 years in his role as Team Leader at Hesters Way, Hatherley and other regional libraries.