Libraries around Devon and Torbay are gearing up for a second winter of special events to help communities enjoy warm spaces and community connection during the colder months.
The first ever ‘Libraries for Life’ campaign last winter was an outstanding success, boosting numbers of visitors across libraries and seeing the introduction of new initiatives ranging from free hot drinks to provision of natural sunlight lamps.
Now the campaign is being launched again for the 2023/24 winter months.
Lynn West from Libraries Unlimited said: “Last winter we had lots of feedback appreciating the warm welcoming community hubs that libraries were able to offer. Our staff and volunteers pulled out the stops to make sure people felt welcomed and supported, and in turn really loved the buzz it created.
New partnerships with other support organisations were set up, and libraries moved furniture around to make better seating spaces and got creative on new ideas for activities. The cost of living crisis is anything but over, and may deepen as mortgage rates rise, so we’re ready to roll out another season of support. We want to harness all last year’s successes and make this year’s Libraries for Life even bigger and better.”
The season will run from October to March. Library teams will be devising their own programmes of services for individual communities this year, considering customer need for their particular location. For example libraries situated in areas with young families might choose to focus on extending bounce and rhyme and children’s activities, while those in areas with elderly populations could help loneliness with craft groups or free digital access sessions.
Libraries have again teamed up with Julian House to help vulnerable individuals to find a warm coat in libraries across Devon and Torbay without any cost. Libraries will be calling on their communities to donate unwanted coats to fill the coat rails, from which anyone who needs a warm coat can come and take one.
The following libraries will be hosting coat rails this winter: Barnstaple, Bideford, Buckfastleigh, Churston, Cullompton, Exeter, Exmouth, Ilfracombe, Ivybridge, Kingsbridge, Newton Abbot, Paignton, Seaton, Sidmouth, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Torquay and Totnes.
Other offerings individual libraries may consider include:
Free hot drinks and refreshments
Free advice and displays of books on the cost of living and budget cooking
Partnership displays and free advice from organisations such as Citizens Advice
Displays of books and information physical and mental wellbeing
Lynn added: “We had so much wonderful feedback from people who visited us last year. One elderly lady with mobility issues came to one of our sessions, took some books out, and had a cup of tea and a chat. It was the first time in over two years she had been out. She has been a user of the Home Library Service in that time but finding out there were hot drinks available she thought it was a good opportunity to start venturing out again, interacting with people outside the home and getting some confidence back. The simple gesture of a cup of tea and a safe space can work wonders on an isolated person in the community. Another person said they came in as it saved them the cost of boiling their own kettle, so she didn’t have a hot drink until she came to the library.”
This year Libraries Unlimited will also be offering the chance to give the gift of library membership to family and friends, with beautifully designed Christmas gift cards. The gifts will be free to collect from libraries from mid-October, and contain a library card that loved ones can activate and access all that their library has to offer.
One project that achieved significant success during last year’s Libraries for Life season was the Meet-up Monday sessions at Torrington Library during March and April. Funded by the National Grid and Friends of The Great Torrington Library, the once-a-week sessions offer free refreshments, activities such as crafts and sewing, and a chance to sit and chat to other local residents. The service was particularly valued by older people, and up to 144 visitors dropped in to each session.
“This is just to say that I am one of several who have taken advantage of our library opening on unscheduled Monday mornings to welcome (and I do mean that) the older generation in out of the cold. I have very much enjoyed sharing the ‘free’ tea and coffee and biscuits with friends and indeed meeting and making new friends. People do matter. Thank you.” Torrington Library customer
“I liked that Meet up Monday was on at a specific time every week. I knew that there would always be people there to chat to. I now know people in other groups through Meet up Mondays – through this I have coach trips planned and have even got contacts for local tradespeople. Above all, the library, its staff, volunteers, and facilities have offered me a welcoming space to meet, socialise, enjoy new experiences, and of course read. It has offered support to many people in the community, a warm space and given them a sense of well-being. It has been lots of fun. Please do it again next winter!” Torrington Library customer
Over 20 grants were awarded to libraries for last year’s Libraries for Life project, including Devon County Council Community Grants team, Torbay Council, The National Grid and Dartmouth Town Council.
Libraries would welcome support to help extend their offers this winter, as even small contributions can help to make a big impact to communities at this time of year. There are many different ways to support- every little helps:
Make a donation of loose change in your local library’s donation box
Make an online donation (single or monthly) via Just Giving
Play Libraries Unlimited’s weekly lottery
Sign up to a challenge via the Ultrachallenges and fundraise for Libraries Unlimited
If you are a Trust, Foundation or Business wanting to support warm banks in libraries, please get in touch with Libraries Unlimited’s Fundraising Officer: email@example.com.
A network of libraries in Devon and Torbay are run by Libraries Unlimited, an independent staff and community owned charity. Join up for free by filling in the online form. Join the Library – Devon (devonlibraries.org.uk) or Torbay (torbaylibraries.org.uk. Follow Libraries Unlimited on Facebook.
For further information and full contact details please visit our web page librariesunlimited.org.uk.
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