Worcestershire libraries have launched a new initiative to help tackle loneliness and isolation across the county.
The Worcestershire libraries ‘Reading Friends’ scheme will bring people together to read, meet new friends, and have fun and is centred around three library services - The Library Service at Home, online Connect Bubbles, and One-to-One telephone calls.
The Library Service at Home (LSAH) supports Worcestershire residents who are unable to access their local or mobile library because of age, disability, or long-term illness, and who have no relatives or friends who can visit a branch or mobile library on their behalf.
A selection of books is delivered each month to the customer’s home, tailored to their reading preferences. Titles can include large print and spoken word versions to help customers with visual impairment.
During lockdown, library staff made ‘keep in touch calls’ to LSAH customers to ensure their wellbeing.
The ‘Reading Friends’ scheme ensures ‘One-to-One’ telephone calls will continue with those customers who wish to receive them.
Library ‘Connect Bubbles’ are small, group sessions led by library staff and volunteers, which take place online using Zoom. Connect Bubbles provide a safe, online community where people can connect with others over a shared interest or activity.
Several book themed Connect Bubbles are available to join that explore different authors and genres as well as more general book chat. Other themes include board games, knitting, craft, art, poetry, photography, and even seated dance!
Connect Bubbles are free to join and people can book a place online via the Worcestershire Libraries Eventbrite page - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/worcestershire-libraries-18603259594
Anyone who would like to join a Connect Bubble but does not have the digital skills or confidence to use Zoom can get help to get online from a library Digital Champion.
Reading Friends one-to-one calls are for those unable to access library Connect Bubbles or who would prefer to talk to someone on a one-to-one basis over the telephone. The library service pairs customers with a Reading Friends volunteer for regular keep-in-touch calls to talk about books and reading.
Hannah Perrott, Assistant Director for Communities, said: “Worcestershire libraries are providing opportunities for people of all ages to stay connected with others, building healthier and more resilient communities across the county.
“The Reading Friends scheme is a fantastic initiative that will bring people together over a shared love of books and reading and help tackle loneliness and social isolation.
“As the roadmap out of lockdown continues, we hope to see more events and activities return to libraries that provide free and accessible community spaces for everyone”
In addition, the library service is seeking volunteer support to help run the Reading Friends scheme and the Library Service at Home. Worcestershire libraries are seeking people who have time to select books for customers, deliver books to their homes, run connect bubbles online or provide one-to-one calls.
Worcestershire libraries are one of 75 partners across the UK currently taking part in the ‘Reading Friends’ national programme, run in partnership with The Reading Agency and developed with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.
To find out more about the Reading Friends scheme at Worcestershire libraries, including the Library Service at Home, Digital Champion call back service and volunteering opportunities visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/ReadingFriends
Alternatively, email the Reading Friends team at email@example.com or call 01905 822722.