Health information in libraries – how it’s grown!

Kate Gielgud, Libraries’ Health Information Officer, looks back at the last five years and on to the next:

It is five years to the day since I started working for Westminster Libraries – on 7 September 2009.  I started my library career at Queen’s Park Library in the north of the borough. This thriving community library has just done well in a customer satisfaction survey.  Queen’s Park Library has always been known for its pleasant and helpful staff and the number and variety of its events.

Queen's Park Library staff at a community event

Queen’s Park Library manager Hugh Thomas and Bengali outreach coordinator Mahbuba Khan at a promotional event.

I left Queen’s Park in 2011 to go on secondment to my present post of Health Information Officer.

During the past few years the amount of health information events and book groups in Westminster have increased and since the Triborough arrangement began we now have more health promotion events taking place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries too. Libraries are helping the public get the best start in life for their children, choose healthy lifestyle options as adults, and age well.  We do all this in partnership with over fifty NHS, community and voluntary organisations.

As all libraries have been busy helping our younger readers between the ages of 4 – 11 read their six books and get their stickers and prizes as part of the annual Summer Reading Challenge, we have been giving some thought to Early Years health information.

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

The ‘A- maze- ing Bouncing Boost Quest’ took place at Queen’s Park children’s library in August, with activities from Mytimeactive Boost programmes, delivered by Magda and Ben from the Oral and Dental Health Team. The terrible tale of ‘Dinosaur Douglas and the beastly bugs‘ was read by Lacey from Queen’s Park Library: a story of a dinosaur who not only didn’t eat his pasta and broccoli but gorged on sweets and chocolate and then didn’t brush his teeth – of course the beastly bugs went to work and he had toothache and then had to have FILLINGS. A cautionary tale indeed.

Tooth brushing fun!This was supported by the green plush Douglas himself, complete with a splendid set of teeth and a toothbrush. The children responded well to the story and to the activities. They took home the free fruit they pulled out of a bag with their eyes closed, guessing what it was! We also gave out information on the importance of Vitamin D for healthy teeth and bones and of course diet and physical activity.

Change4Life has teamed up with Disney to help kids get active and having fun. Families can sign up to be part of the 10 Minute Shake Up and receive:

  • Disney themes wall chart and stickers
  • Activity cards
  • Online activities inspired by everyone’s favourite Disney characters
  • Games, special offers and new ideas from other Change4Life partners.

There are increasing challenges in the face of a rapidly changing world and we have a role to play in helping those supported by some of our community partner organisations to get online – not only to find health information, book GP appointments, and self refer – but also to search for jobs, accommodation and free learning opportunities. New initiatives to help library staff learn new skills also help us help our customers, widening participation.

The main health information websites are:

  • Ebola virusNHS Choices
    This is the Ebola virus from NHS Choices Health News – just one of the thousands of options on the site. Happy browsing.
  • Live Well
    On a more positive note, this is the link to the healthy lifestyle pages.
    There are two parts to this site one for patients and one for doctors.  According to a local pharmacist:
    ‘GPs like this site as it is easy to read but very thorough.  It gives you an article telling you everything about the condition, it gives you links to other helpful websites and any related news articles and videos of doctors talking about the condition and posts from sufferers of the condition. It gives you links to support groups (for example

Accessing health information online helps the NHS preserve time and resources and empowers us!



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