CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Don’t leave health at the back of the shelf

Category: Libraries Matter

The following is a guest blog by Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE). .

The testimonies recently gathered as part of CILIP in Scotland’s #LibrariesMatter campaign give insight into the wide range of ways that libraries impact positively on Scotland’s people and communities.  As Val McDermid notes, libraries are “about so much more than borrowing books” and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than their role in supporting health and wellbeing.

If you were to read any health policy or strategy put out by the Scottish Government in recent years, you’d notice a focus on terms like, ‘prevention’, ‘early intervention’, ‘shifting the balance of care’ and ‘supported self-management’.  While these are all complex concepts in themselves, what they all require in some respect is for conversations about health to increasingly take place beyond the doors of just hospitals and GP surgeries.

The pressures facing health and social care services are well recognised and it’s in this context that Scotland’s public libraries offer an vital network of non-clinical spaces in the heart of our local communities, which can be used to make health and wellbeing information and support more accessible to people.

For example, our members Action on Hearing Loss Scotland hold drop-in sessions in libraries in Ayrshire, Tayside and Glasgow as part of their much loved ‘Hear to Help’ service.  The project makes use of the assets of public libraries in order to provide community based support for people with hearing loss in settings that are convenient to them.

Similarly, anyone unaware of the vital health promotion potential of libraries need look no further than the award winning MacMillan @ Glasgow Libraries Partnership, which offers cancer information and support services at 33 libraries across the City of Glasgow.  Whether it’s in accessing information and advice on living with and beyond cancer, being linked in with a Macmillan Benefits Adviser who can help you with financial issues, or accessing emotional support or just someone to talk to, for people living with Cancer in the City, these libraries are a gateway to a wealth of valuable help that they might not otherwise access.

Making sure that our health and social care support and services evolve and are fit for the future requires us to think about the whole range of assets and services in our communities that support people to live well.  It is vital that Scotland’s libraries form part of that thinking.