Watch or read about how these public libraries in Suffolk, Kirklees, Glasgow and the prison library at HMP Norwich are driving integration and social cohesion and improving the health and life chances of individuals in their communities.
Ipswich Library’s Chat and Chill is a dedicated service for women from diverse and international backgrounds living in Suffolk. The service helps the women integrate and provides a regular space where participants can practice their English, make friends and feel welcomed to Suffolk life. The group’s main purpose, however, is to teach life skills and build people’s confidence, with topics like banking, reading a utility bill and visiting the doctor. Since it was launched eight years ago, the project has developed to include additional opportunities for participants to learn new skills, gain confidence and take part in community activities. The initiative has been recognised in a local business award for social inclusion. For Suffolk Libraries, this approach is leading the way in terms of empowering individuals and promoting self-directed learning and resilience in the local community.
The library at HMP Norwich delivers weekly cognitive stimulation therapy to a previously ‘lost’ group of elderly prisoners serving life sentences, who are suffering from memory loss, dementia and depression. It recognises the high health needs of this group in a custodial setting designed for younger, fitter prisoners. The NICE-recommended treatment is as effective as medication, and Norwich are unique in delivering the treatment inside prison walls. The service is also open to younger prisoners on the wing struggling with depression or mental health issues. Prison staff working on the unit report a positive culture change on the wing since the introduction of the service, with more social mixing and a calmer atmosphere, both inside and outside the group.
Kirklees Libraries’ Family Storywalks service brings local families together outdoors during the school holidays to take part in learning and nature-based activities. Based around literacy, exercise and community socialisation, the programme engages a diverse range of families and targets harder-to-reach families and families who need encouragement to get active and use outdoor spaces and spend time together engaging in shared activities. Themed walks creatively promote fiction and non-fiction and encourage parents to see the value of sharing books with their children and offer children and young people opportunities for exploration, creation, and socialisation. The focus on outdoor pursuits enables the library service to redress gender inequality among their library users by engaging seldom-seen males aged 25 to 45, and gives children male role models for literacy.
Story Café at the Women’s Library in Glasgow is a women-only shared reading group which brings women from different backgrounds together to connect over literature, with a particular emphasis on diversity and equality and awareness of the voices of BME authors. The sessions welcome women from all walks of life and specialise in working with women who are socially excluded, marginalised, vulnerable or ‘hard to reach’ - including refugees and asylum seekers, women living with addictions or mental health problems or exiting the criminal justice system, and those who have experienced abuse, homelessness or poverty. The equalities agenda is central to the aims of Story Café which explores themes around diversity and culture in a safe and supportive space.