This spring, libraries have proved that they are good for your health in a number of ways. Here are just a few:
April was Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – not something anyone really wants to dwell on if they are honest! We would much rather think about health in terms of ‘wellbeing’, with mental pictures of self and loved ones power walking in the park – sparkling eyes, glowing skin, full of vitality. That is actually a good place to start and events at Marylebone, Charing Cross and Maida Vale libraries during the month encouraged us to get it right with advice on the basics of healthy eating and exercise for good digestion – which is of course a step in the right direction for preventing bowel cancer.
Another positive thought around this very common cancer is that, if caught early, the recovery rates are good. With this in mind, Dave from Bowel Cancer UK came along to Church Street Library for the monthly ‘Well Wednesday’ slot to inform us on the signs and signals of the disease and the importance of getting them checked out.
The Stroke Association came along to Pimlico Library and gave 28 people free blood pressure checks; psychotherapists and members of the Wellbeing team based in Vauxhall Bridge Road also visited Pimlico and told us about their free six week courses on relaxation, sleep and dealing with anxiety. This brings to mind Books on Prescription – but more about that in a moment.
Speaking to a Public Health Manager last week he informed me that there is evidence that reading is good for your health. Among other things, reading to children and taking them to libraries as toddlers has an impact on a child’s readiness for school and their reading level at age 11. This has a knock-on effect on people’s socio-economic status as adults – which is closely linked to health.
We have been doing as much sharing of books as possible recently. It wasn’t hard – due to Cityread London we were able to give copies of A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks to health partners who seemed genuinely pleased with their gifts. World Book Night was another occasion to give away books – we had events at Paddington and Westminster Reference libraries to do just that. Copies of The Reader by Bernard Schlink were donated to members of the public as well as NHS staff and members of bibliotherapy reading groups. “Is it free?” I was asked – “YES!” I replied.
This brings me to the very exciting upcoming nationwide relaunch of the Books on Prescription sets. These have been available in libraries for some time but the NHS, the Reading Agency and local authorities have been putting their heads together to revitalise this great initiative.
‘Books on Prescription’ in its new form is a set of 30 books. Most are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workbooks and they can be ‘prescribed’ by a health professional or counsellor to help individuals manage their emotional and mental health. They will be available very soon from all Triborough libraries. These books are marked with a Books on Prescription sticker and can be found in the ‘Body’ section. They have a loan period of six rather than three weeks and can, of course, be renewed.
We will have an official launch of the scheme at Church Street Library on Tuesday 4 June. Look out too for the Kensington and Chelsea launch at Brompton Library and the Hammersmith & Fulham launch at Shepherd’s Bush Library.
I’m itching to tell you about Mood Boosting Books… however, I will leave that for the next instalment of ‘Why Libraries are Good for your Health’.