At SOLUS we are so good at what we do in the digital world because we know how important libraries, people and communities are in the physical world!
I never tire of talking about our wonderful network of libraries as the country’s greatest untapped resource in our economic and health recovery! We are well known for books, reading, trust, digital access and support and equality but we are all that and so much more! We are about people and that fundamental need for human connection.
It’s been a difficult time and we have all felt a bit lonely sometimes. COVID-19 has exacerbated feelings of loneliness in many of us by physically isolating us from the people and things that bring us comfort, from small kindnesses. We haven’t been able to hug the people we want to, or feel the warmth of a chat with a shop or library worker, or have a laugh in the work kitchen like we used to. Many of us have missed a million other big and small acts of connection, interaction and kindness that we’ve been going without.
If you’ve worked in a library you know how many people just want a chat or a bit of social interaction. We know the value to people of our programmes, book clubs, author events, our “Tea, a book and a blether” sessions to name but a few! We know bringing new parents together for rhyme time is so great for parents and children.
So how do we start to battle the loss of human connection that this time has brought? Psychologists have suggested several ways to help combat this during lockdown, and perhaps one of the most interesting suggestions is performing acts of kindness. The Mental Health Foundation has researched the effect that doing good for others has on us. They found that helping others:
- might promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness
- creates a sense of belonging and reduces isolation, through volunteering or making news friends by helping out in your community
- helps keep things in perspective, and give you a more positive outlook of your own life
- helps make the world a happier place, as it may encourage others to pass on a good dead
PEOPLE NEED PEOPLE – It’s a fundamental need!
We have a fundamental need for human connection. We all know the emotional power of a public library! A free public 3rd space to meet, chat, learn get information.
The new Carnegie report – Creating Space for Kindness discusses an experiment with public libraries in Scotland. It outlines how small-scale ‘kindness initiatives’, delivered by local libraries can play a role in helping to improve wellbeing. This short report sets out why kindness matters to wellbeing and why it makes sense to consider how libraries can enhance this core aspect of wellbeing in local communities. It does so through describing a set of ‘kindness initiatives’ that were supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and delivered by 10 public libraries in Scotland. The report highlights the value of creating space to talk about kindness and the impact that this can have on individual and community wellbeing.
READ, TALK, SHARE
Another great initiative has been Read, Talk, Share – How the Reading Agency helped libraries tackle loneliness and human connection. The impact of loneliness on the mental and physical health of people across the UK has been well documented as a public health concern. Feelings of loneliness have increased for many people but especially for those already most at risk of experiencing loneliness, such as older adults, young people and those living alone and these feelings have a big impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Luckily, The Reading Agency’s mission to use the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges was perfectly placed to offer a solution. In December 2020 work began with public libraries across England in taking on this challenge through its ‘Read, Talk, Share’ campaign. Read more here https://readingagency.org.uk/news/blog/read-talk-share-initiative.html
Libraries are an extremely important service for so many reasons that we know of. We don’t talk enough about how they can and do fill a need for so many on human connection, and for those facing isolation and loneliness. As one of the last truly free, public spaces where there is no expectation to spend any money, everybody is welcome and able to use library facilities, both in-person and online. In this way, they can bring people together, fostering connections and community interaction.
This country needs to reimagine the fabulous network of public libraries we have and invest in them and in our communities, our people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Be surprised! Check out the library! Be kind! Reach out!