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Creating Space for Kindness – Public Libraries in Scotland (a Carnegie UK Trust report)

Category: Blog, News

CILIPS members know that #LibrariesAreEssential to supporting Scottish communities in every way, now more than ever, which is why we were so delighted today to see the publication of a much-anticipated report by Carnegie UK Trust: Creating Space for Kindness – an experiment with public libraries in Scotland. Authored by Dr Jenny Peachey and Ben Thurman, the report highlights how Scottish public libraries can create #SpaceForKindness in ways that have a positive impact on both individual and community wellbeing. Many of you may remember Jenny and Ben’s call out last year for members of the CILIPS community to take part in a network of Champions for Libraries and Kindness, and thank you so much to everyone who engaged with the project. Now we can see powerful evidence of the #SpaceForKindness that libraries can create through their unique role at the heart of communities, even and especially in the most challenging circumstances, as well as what needs to be in place to enhance and further grow that essential impact for future years.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Reflections on the vital value of kindness in Scottish society. ‘Kindness is one of the building blocks for thriving communities; by building social connection, it can help alleviate isolation and loneliness; and it is of growing importance within the wider context of the loss of civic space and falling trust in institutions’ (p2).
  • A very high proportion of the population – 93% – already agree that people are treated with kindness in public libraries in Scotland (p3) and the report also shares many suggestions for how this #SpaceForKindness spirit can be enhanced further
  • Understandably, the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the ways in which Scotland’s public libraries could foster kindness in their communities, yet nevertheless through a ‘more agile approach participating libraries were supported to respond flexibly and in different ways…’ and therefore as the report notes, ‘the pandemic highlighted libraries’ creativity, adaptability as well as their commitment to kindness’. (p6).

The Kindness Initiatives that the report highlights include:

  • An Origami Kindness Garden, designed by Aberdeen City Library and Information Services, displaying messages of kindness created by staff on a pillar of paper origami flowers
  • Kindness Conversations with Clackmannanshire Council Library Service, a series of online chat sessions on kindness that was supplemented by a kindness information sheet, a kindness calendar month throughout February and a fiction reading list
  • Connecting Communities with City of Edinburgh Council libraries, involving a postcard exchange between pupils at local schools and older members of the community to share cross-generational messages of kindness and support
  • Story Cafés and Women Making It at Glasgow Women’s Library, creating a welcoming, inclusive space for women to chat about their own experiences of kindness, particularly in response to the pandemic
  • Inverkind at Inverclyde Libraries, featuring the creation of a bespoke logo to act as a visual reminder of kindness that helped focus hearts and minds on this topic, with Books on Wheels service users who may be housebound or shielding also receiving messages of support from young Library Club members
  • A Kindness Tree was crafted by Midlothian Library Service with heart-shaped leaves on which staff, local groups and library users could write memories and messages of kindness
  • Creation of a Kindness Garden Space by North Ayrshire Libraries, an outdoor space for the enjoyment of the community that also provides a space in which to grow local produce
  • Library Letters, Culture Perth and Kinross, which paired Books on Wheels library customers with staff volunteers in a pen-pal partnership
  • Kindness and Wellbeing Packs at South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, involving 300 kindness and wellbeing packs being distributed across South Lanarkshire, to be explored as part of a series of informal Chatty Café sessions
  • Kindness Trees were created in every library in West Lothian Library Service, enabling users to write messages of kindness to others on the leaves

The report notes that the connections created by such initiatives can transcend the physical and that, with many initiatives ‘focused on creating a moment for pause and reflection,’ it is clear that ‘creating time to think about kindness is in itself powerful’ (p9). Kindness initiatives like the ones highlighted in the report do not cost a lot to create, and yet the impact they can have is of huge value to communities. ‘If staff are given just a little bit of time for a conversation, and a little bit of freedom to innovate, good things can happen. Moreover, it has shown that – rather than being a distraction from COVID-19 – focusing on kindness and the wellbeing benefits that this can bring is of particular relevance during times of uncertainty and challenge.’

Click here to read the report in full – thank you to Dr Jenny Peachey, Ben Thurman, Carnegie UK Trust and all the libraries that participated for truly making #SpaceForKindness.

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