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Norfolk’s pioneering library project to tackle community isolation has been recognised in a national report released by Arts Council England.
Norfolk County Council’s Library and Information Service has been praised for its Libraries Loneliness project.
The report looked at the contribution libraries make to the wellbeing of older people and picked out five national examples of schemes making a real difference.
The library project forms part of the council’s wider In Good Company campaign, which aims to change people’s behaviour by promoting positive ways that people can connect with their neighbours and the local community.
The report praised the library project for aligning its activities with the wider strategic priorities of Norfolk County Council, where managing director Wendy Thomson challenged services to do more to tackle loneliness.
The library service quickly got on board, looking at what it offered and how it could help to tackle loneliness through its 47 libraries and eight mobile libraries.
With a population of almost 900,000 residents, one in five over 65s in Norfolk is believed to suffer from loneliness.
Since the libraries started their part of the project in November, they have almost doubled the number of activities for older people, from 57 to 113.
Activities include Just a Cuppa, tea and conversation now available at 17 of Norfolk’s libraries. As well as providing company, it also allows staff to identify signs of loneliness and offer support.
Also Colour Me Calm, run at half of Norfolk’s libraries, are colouring sessions where participants can talk as little or as much as they like in a relaxed atmosphere.
Knit and Natter is run in half of Norfolk’s libraries, with Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, mainly by volunteers.
Scrabble-sessions are held at 15 libraries, with the King’s Lynn group proving so popular sessions are held daily and strong friendships have been formed.
Feedback from the Loneliness Project has been overwhelming, with many isolated community members citing their library as transforming their life and making them part of a community again.