We're working with Libraries Connected to develop a Reading Well Books on Prescription dementia booklist and public library offer. As part of this, we're gathering case studies that show the dementia-focused services that libraries currently provide.
Here, we look at Southend Libraries' partnership work supporting people with dementia and their carers.
Spreading the word about dementia services
In late 2012, Southend Libraries met with council colleagues to discuss ways to raise awareness of local dementia services. It soon became clear that the borough's library network of six branches, a mobile service and busy central library were ideal for spreading the word.
"Libraries are perfectly suited to deliver on this kind of partnership work," says Simon Wallace, Communities and Social Inclusion Manager at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. "We've made real efforts to make our libraries welcoming and accessible through active outreach in community settings."
The discretion that libraries provide is also a strength: "people don't have to sign up to anything if they don't want to. They can be completely anonymous, which is important in outreach work."
The first outcome of the partnership was a series of six 'roadshows' - a tour of events in Southend's libraries that showcased local support available around dementia. Free drop-in events brought together the council's health services, carers' groups and the Alzheimer's Society. Library visitors could find out what help was on their doorstep by talking in-depth if they wanted, or by browsing relevant books and leaflets.
A dementia booklist, including guides to dementia and carer memoirs, was also produced. The list signposted other library services, such as talking books, reading groups, and mobile and home library services.
The roadshows drew positive feedback and the information displays were well received by library users. Titles on the booklist saw increased issues and additional copies of popular titles were added to stock to meet extra demand.
Provision of this sort puts new demands on library staff, and Southend made things easier by arranging a half-day of dementia awareness training. This offered a basic introduction to the types and experiences of dementia and the needs of patients, their families and carers.
Uniquely placed at the heart of communities
Interest in the roadshows triggered further partnership work between libraries and Southend's branch of the Alzheimer's Society. Six drop-in advocacy sessions were held at three branch libraries, offering practical dementia-related information. The advocacy team noted that the branches' calm and welcoming environments, and their unique place at the heart of their communities, made them ideal spaces for this type of engagement work.
Other work with the Alzheimer's Society has included informal talks at Dementia Cafés, during which library staff introduce a range of library resources, including local history books, pictures, postcards, old newspapers, Quick Reads and Pictures to Share titles. Simon points out: "Local history resources are great because they can spark recognition of familiar places and the opportunity to share memories. Quick Reads can be very effective for readers with concentration issues and the Pictures to Share books provide fantastic visual images that can stimulate positive conversations."
Southend wants to build on its partnership work to create something more strategic and long-term. More staff training is planned, and the service is keen to formally integrate its activity into its strategic plan.
Libraries continue to promote a range of other dementia-related activities in the town, including a recently opened sensory garden for people with dementia. Future plans will hopefully include further activities around developing reminiscence resources in partnership with the town's museums service. Further community-based partnership work with Active Life projects for older people is also planned.
Simon stresses that the key focus of Southend Libraries' work around dementia is on developing partnerships: "as a service we're always looking to build links, seek out new opportunities and find ways to work with local communities. By doing this, we encourage people through the doors of our libraries, and make their visits a positive and rewarding experience."
Read a case study about the services for people with dementia provided by Telford and Wrekin Libraries.
See Southend's booklist for people with dementia and their carers
If you'd like to find out more about the Reading Well Books on Prescription dementia list and public library offer, please email email@example.com.