This month for our PLIF blog focus we talk to Joan Black, Lifelong Learning Librarian at South Ayrshire Council, about Mind an’ Read Well! – an innovative project which received funding from the Public Library Improvement Fund in 2017.


Shelf Help PosterAgainst the backdrop of 2018 being the Year of Young People, and with the knowledge that it is estimated that a third of the population are affected by mental health disorders every year, South Ayrshire Libraries and North Ayrshire Libraries joined forces to address the concerns of local young people regarding a perceived lack of services and resources available to them that could help them achieve positive well-being. 

Both library services agreed that there was potential to develop an interesting and practical joint project focusing on making young people aware that public libraries are ‘safe places’ where they can find good quality information.  Under the title “Mind an’ Read Well!” a joint bid was put forward to the Public Library Improvement Fund

The bid focused on a key set of resources from the Reading Agency released under the “Books on Prescription” banner.  The resources are known as “Shelf Help” and form a collection of book titles that have been recommended by young people and health experts specifically for young people experiencing common mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, bullying, self-harming, ADHD, OCD, eating disorders and low self-esteem.  These books can help young people cope better with the pressures of life, feel better about themselves and boost their confidence.

Partnership Working

Librarians showing off Shelf Help BooksThe main aim of the project was to enable libraries to join up with local partners such as youth workers, mental health organisations, third sector organisations and parents and carers to raise awareness of the “Shelf Help” collection by promoting it widely at various events. The project supported two strands of Ambition & Opportunity: The National Strategy for Public Libraries, namely Strategic Aim 1: Reading, Literacy & Learning and Strategic Aim 4: Social Wellbeing.

By making these resources available through the public library service our libraries are now better equipped to engage and connect with young people, a somewhat hard to reach age group for many library services. We engaged with youth workers who have direct contact with young people, as well as with parents and carers and were able to communicate the value of this set of resources and to engage in conversations which have in turn enabled us to ensure the resources are accessible to all who require them. We also worked in partnership with Young Scot to promote the resources via the Young Scot website in order to reach as many young people as possible. 

To further extend the reach of the project both Library Services purchased, from their own library budget, copies of all titles in the Shelf Help collection which are available as eBooks. It became clear from verbal feedback at various promotional events that it would be beneficial to have copies of the titles in audio format. Unfortunately only a very small number of titles have been released as audio books. 

The project has had very positive outcomes for both local authorities as connections were made with a wider variety of partners than we had worked with before. Our working relationship with these partners continues to provide new opportunities to engage with young people in meaningful ways. We are delighted that we were given the opportunity to run with this project by SLIC and the funding received by PLIF.