CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Libraries – an accessible, trusted and welcoming environment

Category: Inspiration for the Nation 2016

Guest Blog by Craig Menzies, Macmillan Programme Manager at Glasgow Libraries as part of the ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign. 

‘No-one in Glasgow should face cancer alone’ is an easy statement to make. Yet, across the city of Glasgow, our team of volunteers still regularly hear of individuals facing the devastating side effects of cancer, feeling alone, isolated, and without access to the right information and support. And importantly, access to this information and support at the right time. 

What drives this isolation and lack of support is up for debate, however we do know through numerous research and evaluation projects that a cancer diagnosis evokes a huge range of emotional, financial and practical support needs not universally covered within the National Health Service.

Of course, we must acknowledge that many health professionals go over and above to ensure that individuals are aware of local support services. However, generally speaking the lack of a coherent referral pathway which includes these non-clinical needs, means that the onus to seek support for such needs lies with the individual themselves, and very often simply goes unmet.

Throughout years of research, learning through lived experiences, and talking openly to people affected by cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support has investigated and recognises the huge importance that additional non-clinical services can have upon meeting some of these needs. An excellent example of where Macmillan have utilised this knowledge and experience is displayed in their work within libraries.

Back in 2009, a small one site pilot based in Easterhouse was developed to try and test out a model utilising a local community library to provide a base for individuals affected by cancer to drop by for a chat and a coffee. This development offered the local community the opportunity to speak confidentially, to someone who is not their doctor, family member or friend about any concerns or worries they may have.

Feedback received overwhelmingly promoted the potential role which libraries can play, offering an accessible, trusted and welcoming environment, and indicated the potential for the pilot site to be rolled out on a wider scale.

Today, we have a city with 33 Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Services based in libraries across Glasgow, with individuals in Glasgow at most 1 mile away from their closest service. 17 of these services are currently open at least one day per week, with a team of excellent volunteers providing their time, experience and knowledge to support any individual affected by cancer.

To date, we have witnessed over 8,400 attendances and feel we are making significant inroads in ensuring that we meet some of the needs discussed earlier. We are very fortunate that the funding provided by Macmillan Cancer Support is not just restricted to libraries, with a total of eight other cancer specific services providing a number of services such as Holistic Needs Assessments, Benefits and financial support, Physical activity programmes, a clothes and wig service and a range of complementary therapies and counselling (in partnership with Cancer Support Scotland).

Together, we are transforming the cancer landscape in Glasgow, and starting to piece together a truly comprehensive and joined up service offer to support individuals with the vast variety of non-clinical needs associated with a cancer diagnosis. As we continue to explore opportunities to develop our services, we shall keep this one simple statement in mind. No-one in Glasgow should face cancer alone!

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