30 January 2014—Library services in England estimate that over 100,000 people with mental health problems have engaged with the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme since it was launched by English public libraries in June 2013 based on loan figures of recommended titles which have increased by 145% during the first three months of the scheme.


The Books on Prescription scheme is a key element of the library health offer in England. The initiative provides self-help reading for adults based on cognitive behavioural therapy for a range of common mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, phobias and eating disorders.   The scheme supports people to self-manage by signposting to expert endorsed book based therapy available for free from public libraries either as a stand-alone treatment or alongside other approaches such as talking therapies or medication.


Popular titles on the Books on Prescription list include Overcoming Anxiety: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques by Helen Kennerley, and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.


Following the great success of the RWBoP scheme, Arts Council England have agreed to fund further work on how libraries can support people with dementia.


Gill Taft, Books on Prescription user, said: “I’ve worried for so many years about why I get depression and anxiety but I’ve never had anyone explain it to me before. The books have helped me so much in understanding things like what can bring on a panic attack, and why it makes me feel the way it does. Now if I’m having a bad day, I drop in the library and pick up a book”


Norman Lamb, Minister of State at the Department of Health, said: “Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are common and by helping people understand them, we can ensure they are better equipped to manage their own health.  That’s why this scheme is so valuable as it makes this vital information available in local libraries and free of charge so everybody can access it. I am delighted to see the scheme has got off to a strong start and I look forward to seeing it used by health professionals to complement the range of options for support available.


“We are working to empower people with mental health problems and improve the support available to them.  Last week we launched our Mental Health Action Plan which outlines our priorities for the future.”


Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “This is a very positive outcome for the Books on Prescription scheme and Arts Council England is pleased to have supported such an important initiative. This outcome firmly demonstrates how libraries continue to be an essential part of our communities, and are able to apply their core purpose in innovative ways that support our partners, and more importantly, help support local people to support themselves”


Janene Cox, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, said: “This is an excellent result for the first stage of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme and we are confident that take up of this offer will increase as more people learn about it. We are really pleased the Arts Council have recognized this project and have agreed to help libraries support people living with dementia”


Debbie Hicks, Direct of Research at The Reading Agency, said: “We are delighted to be working with SCL and health partners including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing and the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme to deliver this important early intervention community health service. The scheme works within NICE clinical guidelines and has got off to a strong start as more and more prescribers including GPs come on board. We are also finding that lots of people are using the scheme as a self-help service.”


Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, said: “I’m delighted to see the success of Books on Prescription. To reach more than 100 000 people in three months is an amazing achievement. I congratulate the Society of Chief Librarians on coming up with this excellent scheme and showing how libraries can still be the home of fresh life changing innovative ideas”








For more information contact:


Elizabeth Elford, SCL Advocacy Manager, +44 (0)7891 056114



Notes to editors


  1. The conditions covered by the Reading Well Books on Prescription  list are: anger, anxiety, binge eating, chronic pain, depression, health anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, panic, phobias, relationship problems, self-esteem, sleep problems, social phobias, stress and worry.
  2. The book selection protocol supporting the development of the core list is available at www.readingagency.org.uk/readingwell
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based self-help approaches as a first step in the treatment of common mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. .
  4. For a review of the evidence relating to the effectiveness of self-help books based on the principles of CBT, go to www.readingagency.org.uk/readingwell
  5. The Society of Chief Librarians has worked in partnership with The Reading Agency on this scheme, with seed funding by Arts Council England’s Library Development Initiative.
    1. The Reading Agency is an independent charity with a mission to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. It runs big programmes and partnerships across the whole library network. It is funded by the Arts Council. (www.readingagency.org.uk)
    2. The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service. www.goscl.com
  1. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk