I recently attended a library staff conference in Wales which was on the theme of health and wellbeing and libraries. There were lots of examples of projects that are going on in Wales and quite a few times I overheard people saying “Oooh, I didn’t know about that” or “That’s the first time I’ve heard of XXX”. It was a great cross-sector conference and many of the discussions showed how schemes can be easily adapted to college libraries from public or vice versa.
So, here’s a very brief guide to some of the health and wellbeing information resources / projects or library-related schemes that may be useful to you in your work (or personal) life. In no particular order:
The First Incomplete Field Guide to Wellbeing in Libraries – this was produced by the South East Wales library partnership but has case studies from every local authority in Wales. Each entry describes the project, its benefits, and what impacts it has based on the four categories used to define ‘sustainable wellbeing’ by Wellbeing Wales/Lles Cymru. It’s a full-colour A4 bilingual publication and is available to download from various websites including the librarywales.org portal and the Health Promotion Library website.
Another report is Public Libraries in Wales: health, wellbeing and social benefits, which was produced by the Society of Chief Librarians Wales. That too is available bilingually and online on their website and has quotes, case studies and other useful evidence.
The Health Promotion Library in Cardiff is: “your gateway to quality health and wellbeing information” apparently! Anyone can join the library (e.g. members of the public and librarians), and you can visit in person, or order things by email/phone, or access resources online. They have bulletins you can sign up for as well. If you are a librarian wanting to have some of their flyers for your customers you can see one here and order them direct from the library. The library staff also go out to events and are keen to promote their resources so that more people can benefit from them.
Book Prescription Wales (BPW) – the pioneering bibliotheraphy scheme which started in Cardiff, was rolled out across Wales, and is now adapted internationally! Appropriate self-help books for people suffering mild to moderate mental health issues are ‘prescribed’ to patients and issued by their local library. The patient doesn’t even have to be a library member to borrow the book. The books are chosen by health professionals and the current list can be found here.
In some areas the scheme has been expanded to family and children health books, and to other health conditions. For colleges and universities, some library services are working with their student support services to offer similar tailored self-help collections (without the prescription element), e.g. books on living away from home, managing stress etc. The official BPW scheme could be promoted in these venues with freely available flyers, posters etc.
An attractive article (even if I do say so myself) covering most of the above schemes, and more, can be found in Issue 14 of the CyMAL magazine. Along with a picture of Derek Brockway and Jade Jones together in a library event during the Get reading, get better, get libraries campaign.
Still on the bibliotherapy theme, Ceredigion public library service has produced a carers’ booklist which outlines the help available for carers and the books and resources available through the library service.
Public libraries are also working with Macmillan Cancer in several areas of Wales to provide targeted health information points in libraries. Three-year projects are in place in Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen, and north Wales is also looking to work with Macmillan in the future. Libraries in north Wales are working with the Expert Patient Programme with handbooks available in all public libraries in Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Wrexham.
I learnt about two useful resources to use if you are looking for quality health information on the Internet. They are the Cochrane Summaries which provides an abstract, links to the full review and medical references on a huge range of medical issues, and Trip, which is a clinical search engine just for health and medical stuff. It only returns results from trusted sites. Both of these look absolutely great so if you regularly find yourself answering health queries, or have some health issues you want to look up for yourself, I would recommend these two resources.
I also learnt about the HON code, which is a recognised code for websites which indicate to the user that it’s a trusted site. The HON code is the code of conduct of the Health On the Net Foundation and is applied for voluntary health/medical websites and has been going since 1995. You can look for it on health information websites. (Although I couldn’t see it on the Cochrane Summaries on the Trip one!)
There was also a mini presentation on Flying Start which is the Welsh Government’s targeted early years programme for families with children under four years of age in the most deprived areas of Wales. There are various aspects to the programme, some of which include books and reading.
Encouraging reading at a young age was also mentioned in a group discussion on reading and wellbeing. Programmes such as Bookstart, the new Pori Drwy Stori and the Summer Reading Challenge, link reading in with key stages in a young person’s life to help them and their parents/guardians with learning, wellbeing and literacy.
Why’s all this important? Well, a survey found that librarians are second only to doctors in terms of the trust placed in them by information seekers. You have the power, use it well.