Engaging Libraries projects announced

The Universal Health Offer from SCL demonstrates how libraries contribute positively to the nation’s health and in doing so, helps keep library services relevant and accessible. Launched earlier this year, Engaging Libraries is a new and exciting pilot programme run by Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome that grew out of a mutual exploration between Wellcome and SCL into whether and how the aims of Wellcome and the public library sector overlap.

The programme is aimed at giving libraries the opportunity to move beyond health promotion to explore new dynamic and discursive ways in which to connect people with health and wellbeing topics. We encouraged applicants to be creative and offered them the opportunity to take risks, as this process is an opportunity for learning and inspiration, not just for the trusts involved but for the wider public libraries sector.

It’s been exciting to see the successful projects in the Engaging Libraries programme being announced earlier this week. What’s even more exciting is the fact that the quality of applications was so high that Wellcome committed an additional £85,000 to fund, not 8-10 projects as originally planned, but 14 projects from across England, Scotland and Wales.

At the heart of the programme is public engagement – creating an opportunity to get people curious about health and wellbeing, and for people to consider, reflect and debate ideas on these subjects. The winning Engaging Libraries projects enable people to explore major issues such as stress, obesity and body image, using a wide range of creative activities. These include theatre performances, the development of graphic novels, and a travelling ‘happiness bar’ that visits local communities and delivers a series of pop up events.

Here is just a flavour of what some of the 14 successful projects in libraries across England, Wales and Scotland will offer:

  • Essex County Council’s library service will work with partners including arts and education filmmaking charity Signals, to deliver ‘No Filter’. The project aims to encourage children and young people to discuss stress, relaxation and mood, using vlogs, blogs and podcasts about their everyday lives, how they manage stress and how they improve their wellbeing as a starting point for conversations.
  • Redbridge Libraries’ project, The Final Party, will spark conversation and discussion about death through a series of interactive events including Death Cafes, a commissioned animation created within the library, a one-day death festival inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival and opportunities for recording final wishes.
  • Dundee libraries will work with the organisation connected baby, led by research scientist Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk (Honorary Fellow at the University of Dundee) to explore children’s biological need for comfort and stable relationships, and the importance of teddy bears to children’s emotional wellbeing. A Teddy Bears’ Picnic is planned for summer, and public lectures on the neuroscience of relationships will take place for those interested in the underlying science.

The successful project leads will be coming together later this month for a kickstarter day, where they will meet each other and share ideas about public engagement. I’m excited to work with them as their projects develop.

Andy Wright, Carnegie Associate, Carnegie UK Trust