Library reading programs

I was lucky to attend the Reading Agency Seminar held at the new Library at the Dock in Melbourne.

Debbie Hicks, Director of the Reading Agency, opened the seminar with a presentation about the reading programmes offered in the UK. They offer UK public libraries tools for reading activities under a sustainable strategic framework that is benchmarked nationally for ensure continuity.

Their programmes include:

  • Summer Reading Challenge
  • Chatter Books
  • Reading Activists with volunteering opportunities for youths.
  • World Book Night
  • Reading Groups
  • Books on Prescription
  • Mood Boosting Books

Dr. Jacinta Halloran talked about the gap between the early stages of anxiety and depression and the need for prescribing drugs. She talked about the sinking feeling she gets when she prescribes drugs for depression, knowing that bibliotherapy could help at this early stage. Jacinta is the author of two novels: Dissection, andPilgrimage. Jacinta works with Susan McLaine and more information about their work can be found at the Bibliotherapy Australia website.

Lisa D’Onofrio showcased the ‘Go Goldfields project. Part of this included a Literacy Strategy “read all about it”, that involved collaboration across sectors using the National Numeracy and Literacy Framework in order to adopt a common language.

Bec Kavanagh spoke eloquently about the Stella Prize which seeks to highlight gender inequality in literature for children and teens.

Rosie Cirrito from Brimbank Libraries talked about their Reading Buddies program that matches volunteers with readers. A reward system uses stickers, etc , to acknowledge milestones.

Sarah Hopkins and Karyn Siegmann of Bayside Libraries talked about the reader experience in libraries. They aim to support a reading culture by maximising library spaces, displays, and collection usage trends (Collection HQ). “The book is the hero.”

Sue Wootton of Eastern Regional Libraries talked about their Read with the Reading Dog program that incorporates dogs for reading practice for children identified as needing extra help by local schools.

Robyn Childs from Moreland Libraries talked about their Read More program that encapsulates all of their reading activities: from author talks, displays, writing competitions, workshops, etc.

Shirley Bateman of Melbourne City Libraries facilitated some reflections on the presentations. These were:

  • Value of partnerships to be “courageously collaborative”.
  • National Literacy and Numeracy framework
  • The value of families in the reading journey
  • Diversity of content and the danger of the single story. This story was referenced and I recall loving it when I first watched it: 

Paula Kelly, Library Manager of Melbourne City Libraries reminded us about the SLV/PLVN Statewide project READ (yet to be completed).

Debbie Hicks of the Reading Agency said that “libraries are unifque community spaces for the delivery of interventions for wellbeing.” Books on Prescription offers a book list of self-help books that are professionally selected using a book selection protocol, and made available through public libraries in the UK. A user leaflet is also provided that offers further information.

Susan McLaine talked about the power of literature to move and heal, saying that “in the library is healing for the soul,” and that “there is often wisdom within the story. Our aim should be to enrich life quality, life spirit, and nourish connection.” Susan’s website is Words That Heal and she is currently working on her PhD at RMIT on the topic of “creative bibliotherapy” while continuing to facilitate session within a prison.

Dr. Louise Roufeil is a psychologist that provided an overview of mental health in Australia. 45% of Australians experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. 20% had a diagnosed mental health disorder in the last 12 months. The high prevalence of anxiety impacts on productivity across the board. Early intervention is not readily available. Bibliotherapy can fill this gap and libraries are well positioned to do this.

Lisa Lang of Melbourne City Libraries read an excerpt from a Tobias Wolff novel that left us hanging… A great example of their Story Lounge programme that runs monthly at Library on the Dock.

We finished the day with a practical planning session that only served to reaffirm the need for collaboration amongst library services in order to provide similar programs. What do we do already? What more can we do?

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