Monday, 26 January 2015


So … the Government have launched a library scheme to support dementia sufferers; from February, GPs and health professionals will be able to “recommend a selection of 25 approved books for people with dementia or their carers.”

This is a fantastic project. It is already well documented that reading can improve your health and well-being so targeting specific health problems this way makes sense, especially as the organisers have said that this is a cost-effective way of delivering community care and support. I personally know how valuable it can be to have access to books to help explain various health matters.

As a school librarian I’m used to departments not being aware of what others are studying. That’s why the librarian is in a unique position as we are usually the only person in the whole school with an overview of the curriculum – which means we can ensure our resources get as much use as possible and departments don’t have to waste their budgets purchasing duplicate stock. We can see that the books purchased for use by History can also be used in English or that those selected for a Geography topic will also be useful in Science.

But what amazes me about this launch is that Norman Lamb, Minister of State for care and support, and Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for culture and the digital economy, were both there. Now the former could be excused for not being aware of the current situation regarding the mass closure of libraries with the handing over of many others to volunteers but Mr Vaizey has no excuse. Libraries are his remit, he is fully aware of the devastation of the public library system that is occurring throughout the country because he refuses to do anything about it. He knows that the structure for delivering this scheme is probably non-existent.

So I’d like to ask …

How is this library scheme to support dementia sufferers meant to work when there are no libraries to run it?


  1. My mother may be in the early stages of dementia. In such circumstances, and given the fact she's also elderly, frail and in considerable pain from scoliosis and osteo-arthritis, I tend (in all cases) to get extremely irritable if any suggestion that she has to travel some distance is made. Therefore, in the case of libraries and everything else, the service MUST be fairly nearby, easily accessible and open regular hours. I'm willing to drive and support her, but I have Asperger syndrome myself, and finding my way around one-way systems and roundabouts fills me with dread. I've been hearing about the word "flexibility" all my life and I f***** hate it. It's largely an excuse for cutting services and telling everyone they have to like it. I don't. Aspergers, pensioners and many other sectors of our ageing society just do not have the "flexibility" to run round the country looking for the nearest service point or whatever only to be told (by a sign, most likely) that it's only open every second Wednesday and three times in a blue moon! The awful truth - most times when Mum wants a book or anything else, I order it from Amazon!

    And by the way, Ed Vaizey, you're useless!

  2. Exactly! The majority of people with dementia will be elderly with other health-related problems and will rely on carers, usually their family, to help them access such services. These family members have their own lives that they have to fit in around doing this ... work, young families, their own problems. They may not want or be able to drive miles to the nearest library. They may work, have young children, have to use public transport - all these are barriers - and that's assuming that the library is open when they can get there. That is why a library system, especially if it is going to deliver outreach services, needs to be local and accessible.

  3. We used to have a fantastic mobile library that came into our village (a small one in North Yorkshire), parked up by the bungalows that generally housed old people and allowed residents to take out books when they didn't have a way to get to the library in the nearest town. I remember going to the mobile library before I was school age and it was fantastic! Why on earth the council/government/whoever decided to close down such a service in such a rural area is beyond me! One of the reasons we used it was the town the library was situated in was really child unfriendly. It's all cobbled streets and the parking is a nightmare. My mum would have had two children under 5 to contend with and a mobile library made such a difference. When my mum was seriously ill, I had to rely on a neighbour to go to the library for me and pick out books for her as combining working, taking my sister to school and looking after my mum didn't afford me much chance of getting to the library during its restricted opening hours! I know one of the NYCC libraries runs a volunteer programme that allows volunteers to go around to homes of the elderly once a fortnight and take them books, chat with them and return any they've finished with which is a brilliant idea and should be advertised more. It's such a shame that the government are so short-sighted when it comes to public services such as the library - they're so much more than just a place to take out books but they don't seem to be able to see that! We only had one 'proper' librarian left at our local library a few years ago but they made her redundant and to be honest I've barely been in since. She'd been there 25+ years and it's such a shame. Hopefully, one day (before it's too late!) they'll realise that a library is a precious public commodity and should be saved!