Bracknell Forest Council library service wins £14,000 funding to tackle isolation and loneliness

To tackle isolation and loneliness, the council’s library service has been awarded £14,000 of funding from the Reading Agency, the Arts Council of England, and its book supplier Bolinda.

This funding will allow the council to make substantial investments in tablets, e-readers, e-books and audio. The funding will also enable the service to extend its outreach programme, creating new virtual reading groups and library staff supporting people in their homes.

The funding is part of the Reading Agency’s new campaign ‘Reading Friends / Talk, Read, Share initiative’, which launched on Wednesday, 3 February.

Library services provide an important social link in communities. With lockdowns and other restrictions, Bracknell Forest Council’s library service is adapting its services to ensure this social connection can be continued to tackle isolation and loneliness.

Cllr John Harrison, Executive Member for Culture, Delivery and Public Protection, said:

“Throughout this pandemic, a number of Bracknell Forest residents have been in touch to say how much they miss being able to go to the library and meet up with their reading groups. Cultural activities can contribute greatly to a feeling of improved wellbeing for many individuals, helping them to relax and feel happier. Arts, libraries, and sports are great ways to help improve mental health and improve feelings of isolation or loneliness.

“While we can’t get together in person, there are things we can do to help people stay connected. Through initiatives like this, the library service can help support people and address a number of issues. I am proud that our library service has been so successful in getting the funding for this.”

The council’s library service is using this funding to purchase 25 tablets for loan, to enable the digitally excluded to get online, learn new skills, and start connecting with others through its virtual Reading Friends groups and online activities. Plus, the council will be purchasing around £4,000 worth of additional e-books and e-audio titles.

The funding will also allow library staff to phone customers to chat about books they’ve enjoyed and provide assistance in downloading e-books for those who haven’t yet tried them. The funding will also enable the service to address isolation mental health by increasing its mental health collections for people of all ages, in addition to purchasing multiple self-help e-books. The Reading Well programme focuses on the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health.

Fiona Atkinson, Library Services Manager, said:

“I am really pleased that Bracknell Forest Council library service has been able to secure this funding. The council has prioritised addressing isolation and loneliness, and I am pleased that libraries and culture are valued as having a role in addressing this important issue.”

Notes to editors:

The awards are as follows:

  • £10,500 from the Reading Agency, as part of their Reading Friends/Talk, Read, Share initiative which launched officially on Wednesday, 3 February. The Reading Agency said it was proud to announce its new campaign Talk, Read, Share, to combat loneliness and promote wellbeing through the proven power of reading during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Funding presents an unprecedented level of investment in library services to tackle loneliness and support mental health, and The Reading Agency will work closely with local libraries and organisations to reach communities through reading, talking, and sharing.
  • £1,500 received in February from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport via the Reading Agency specifically to promote their Reading Well initiative. Reading Well focuses on the benefits of bibliotherapy to mental health. The funding is specifically to increase Bracknell Forest libraries’ mental health collections for adults, young people and children in every branch, in addition to purchasing multiple self-help e-books.
  • £1,000 has been received from Arts Council England, plus now an additional £1,000 of matched funding from Bolinda (Bracknell Forest Council’s Borrowbox supplier) to specifically purchase additional e-books and e-audio titles of any kind.